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Seven Really Interesting Facts about the Great Zora Neale Hurston

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By Yolanda Spivey

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama.  As a child, her family moved to an all Black town called Eatonville, Florida where her father served as Mayor.  Her mother died when Zora was a young teenager, and after many disagreements with her father’s new wife, a young Zora left home.  After studying at various universities, Hurston became a folklorist and anthropologist, collecting folklore in the South, the Caribbean and Latin America.  After studying at Howard University, Zora moved to Harlem, New York where she became a prominent fixture of the Harlem Renaissance.

Here are some other interesting facts about Zora Neale Hurston:

FACT #1: Zora Neale Hurston graduated high-school at the age of 27. She told people that she was 10 years younger than her actual age.  She often got away with telling this “story” simply because she looked young.  She was very petite in stature although people described her as having an “old soul.”

FACT #2: Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were the best of friends.  They often collaborated on different projects together, even founding the magazine Fire that was temporarily in print.  But a dispute over who wrote the play entitled Mule Bone, ended their friendship.  The split left Zora Neale Hurston deeply regretful for the rest of her life.

FACT #3: Zora Neal Hurston studied the practice/ religion of sorcery, Voodoo and Hoodoo.  She was even awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1936 to study “obeah” in the West Indies.  Her book, Tell My Horse, was based on the accounts she experienced while studying the practice of “obeah” in the West Indian Islands.  While in Haiti on an extended stay, she wrote her famous book, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

FACT #4: Zora Neale Hurston was married twice.  Her later husband, Albert Price was 25 years younger than her.  She described him as the love of her life.  She never had any children with either man.

FACT #5: In 1948, a ten year old boy accused Hurston of mοlesting him.  Although it was proven that she was out of the country when the incident supposedly happened, Zora Neale Hurston’s reputation was badly damaged.  As a result she had a difficult time finding literary companies to publish her work, and she quickly fell from the public’s eye.

FACT #6: In 1952, Zora Neale Hurston had a brief comeback.  She reported on the case of Ruby McCollum, the Black woman who became famous for shooting a White doctor who she accused of forcing her to have sex with him and bearing his child. Zora’s writing was instrumental in changing the public’s attitude on the practice of “paramour rights,” which states that a White man has the right to take a Black woman as a concubine.

FACT #7: Later in her life, Zora Neale Hurston suffered from a series of strokes which left her paralyzed, and she was admitted in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home.  She died alone and poor on January 28, 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.  It wasn’t until a young zealous writer went looking for her, and published an essay called, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” did Zora get the recognition she deserved.  That young writer was Alice Walker.