Zora Neale Hurston’s Transnational Life, Research, and Writing
[Alabama, Florida, Nashville, New York, Washington DC, New Orleans, the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras]
Jan 7, 1891 Zora Neale Hurston Born
Zora Neale Hurston is born in Notasulga, Alabama. She is the fifth of eight children born to John and Lucy Potts Hurston.
1892 Move to Eatonville, Florida
The Hurston family moves to Eatonville, an incorporated, self-governed, all-black town north of Orlando, Florida. Incorporated in 1887, it is the oldest such town in the United States.
1917 Twentysomething High-Schooler
After leaving home and school and working a number of odd jobs to support herself, Hurston moves to Baltimore, Maryland. In order to qualify for a free high school education, 26-year-old Hurston lies about her age, claiming her birth year as 1901. She maintains the falsehood until her death.
Jun 1918 High School Graduation
Hurston completes her high school graduation requirements at Morgan Academy in Baltimore. After graduation, she works as a waitress and a manicurist to earn money.
1919 Hurston at Howard University
Hurston enrolls at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
1925 Transfer to Barnard College
Hurston submits the short story “Spunk” and the play Color Struck to a literary contest sponsored by Opportunity and wins second place for both. In the same year, she receives a scholarship to Barnard College and transfers, studying anthropology with the scholar Franz Boas.
1926 Hurston Visits Harlem, starts her career as a fieldworker/social scientist
Hurston travels to Harlem to conduct field research for Boas on black life. She meets several other young black artists, including Langston Hughes. Several of Hurston’s short stories are published during this time. She and Hughes also launch the short-lived but influential black literary journal Fire!!
1927 Hurston travels to Florida to do fieldwork, marries Herbert Sheen
Jul 7, 1931 Divorce with Sheen
Jan 10, 1932 Hurston’s musical The Great Day premieres on Broadway.
1934 Hurston’s play All Ye Live Long Day premieres at Rollins College, Winter Park FL
On her way up to Chicago from Florida to direct a folk concert, she stopped at Fisk University in Nashville, TN to speak with the school’s president Thomas Jones. With a view toward hiring Hurston as a full professor, Jones proposed sending Hurston to Yale to undertake additional training. The Rosenwald Fund proposed to subsidize a chair for her at Fisk, but decided instead to offer her a fellowship for doctoral study at Coluncia.
May 1934 Hurston’s first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, is published. She begins to study for a doctorate (never completed) at Columbia University with the help of a Rosenwald Fellowship
1935 Hurston publishes a collection of black folklore entitled Mules and Men.
1936 Hurston is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study obeah, the practice of sorcery in the West Indies. From April to September she conducts research in Jamaica.
1937 Her Guggenheim fellowship extended, Hurston continues her research in Haiti. While there, she writes Their Eyes Were Watching God in seven weeks. She returns to the United States shortly before the 18 September publication of the novel.
1938 Hurston writes and publishes Tell My Horse, an account of West Indian obeah practices based on her research.
1939 Hurston is hired by the Federal Writers’ Project to record African-American folklore, songs, and labor conditions.
Later in the year she accepts a position as a drama instructor at North Carolina College for Negroes. Her novel Moses, Man of the Mountain is published. She marries Albert Price III.
Link: Florida Memory Project
1942 Her memoir Dust Tracks on a Road is published to critical praise. It receives the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for its take on race relations.
1943 After a brief and tumultuous marriage, Hurston and Price’s divorce is finalized.
1947 Hurston moves to Honduras to research the black experience in Central America. She writes the novel Seraph on the Suwanee, which is published the following year.
1950 A financially strapped Hurston takes a job as a domestic worker in Florida. She continues to publish well-regarded essays in the Saturday Evening Post and other publications.
1952 The Pittsburgh Courier hires Hurston to cover the case of Ruby McCollum.
1957 Hurston begins a two-year stint as a columnist for the Fort Pierce Chronicle. During this time she also works as a substitute teacher at a local school.
1959 Hurston suffers a stroke and is forced to move into the St. Lucie County Welfare Home.
Jan 28, 1960 Zora Neale Hurston dies of hypertensive heart disease at the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. Penniless and alone at the time of her death, her neighbors take up a collection to pay for her funeral. She is buried in an unmarked grave.
Aug 1973 Intrigued by Hurston’s life story, the writer Alice Walker locates the site of her grave and purchases a headstone for it. The inscription reads “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”