Zora Neale Hurston - Celebrating the Culture of Black Americans

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Zora Neale Hurston - Celebrating the Culture of Black Americans

In her life and in her writings, Zora Neale Hurston, with the South and its traditions as her backdrop, celebrated the culture of black Americans, Negro love and pride with a feminine perspective that was uncommon and untapped in her time. While Hurston can be considered one of the greats of African-American literature, it’s only recently that interest in her has been revived after decades of neglect (Peacock 335). Sadly, Hurston’s life and Hurston’s writing didn’t receive notoriety until after her death in 1960.

Hurston’s upbringing was pivotal in her unique sense of identity and culture. “Born in 1891, Hurston spent much of her childhood in Eatonville,
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Hurston eventually left the confines of familiarity of Eatonville, continuing her education in Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York. Hurston earned a high school diploma at Morgan Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. After Morgan,
Hurston went on to receive her associates degree from Howard University, the institution she proudly called “the capstone of Negro education in the world”
(Witcover 42). “Zora funded her education at Howard University by working as a maid and manicurist. Zora’s work as a maid for wealthy Black families in the city and as a manicurist in a Washington D.C. proved to be as educational as
Howard University” (Zora Neale Hurston-The School District of Palm Beach
County, Florida, Internet). Following her time in Baltimore and Washington DC,
Zora went on to New York to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at
Barnard College studying under Franz Boas. Boas was a German-born scholar who worked against the trend, believing that all races shared the same potential.

Boas believed Hurston was an “exceptionally gifted woman” and encouraged her to study cultural anthropology (Witcover 64). After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Barnard and dropping out of a Ph.D. program at Columbia University,
Hurston won a Guggenheim Fellowship to study indigenous religious practices in
Jamaica and in Haiti (Boyd 28). This is the place where Zora Neale Hurston wrote her acclaimed novel Their Eyes Were Watching
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