ZORA NEALE HURSTON (1891 – 1960) was born January 7, 1891. She was an African-American folklorist, author and anthropologist during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black town in the United States. She wrote four novels and over 50 short stories, essays and plays. She is best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
In 1918 Hurston entered Howard University where she co-founded the University’s student newspaper. She left Howard University in 1924, but in 1925 she was offered a scholarship to attend Barnard College of Columbia University where she was the school’s only black student. She graduated in 1927, at age 36, with a degree in Anthropology. After graduation she did graduate work in anthropology at Columbia. While at Barnard and Columbia she worked alongside Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead.
In 1948, Huston was falsely accused of molesting a young boy. She was able to prove that she was in Honduras when the crime allegedly occurred and the case was dismissed, but the scandal seriously impinged on her personal life.
Huston died of heart disease in 1960in St. Lucie County Welfare Home. She was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973, novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the general area where Huston was supposed to have been buried and had the grave marked as Huston’s.
Huston disagreed with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. She believed that it would be better to have black schools truly equal to white schools, putting black students together with white students would not result in them being better educated. She was also concerned that with the demise of black schools future generations of black students would not be taught black culture and history.
Interest in Huston’s work died with her. It was not until 1975, when Alice Walker published “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in Ms. Magazine that interest in Hurston’s work was revived. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante included Hurston in his list of “100 Greatest African Americans”.
OTHER JANUARY 7 EVENTS IN WOMEN’S HISTORY:
1896 Fannie Farmer’s first cookbook was published on. In it she introduced standardized cooking measurements.
1955 Marian Anderson became the first African American woman to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.
–Nancy Campbell Mead