Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston was an astounding Afro-American author who was recognized not for being the first Afro-American writer, but rather for her ability to bring forth her cultural language and imagery. If not for Zora's pioneering effort as a female black writer, the world of modern literature would have never seen the cultural insights of the African American culture in such a candid way.

Zora's date of birth is said to be in January of 1891, however her actual date of birth is debated today due to the fact that records of African Americans during the 19th century were not accurately kept (Lyons 2). Zora's home town, which was not disputed, was Eatonville, Florida, which was founded by African Americans and was the first all-black town incorporated into the United States (Cheryl@geocities [online] ). Her father John Hurston was a tall, heavy muscled man who often seemed "invincible" to Zora (Lyons 2). John was a community leader and was influential member of society. His positions in Eatonville included: Baptist preacher, town mayor, and skilled carpenter (Lyons 2). Though John was a revered member of Eatonville he had is faults as well. His eye for other women often left his family home alone for months out of a time (Lyons 1). Zora's mother, Lucy Potts Hurston was the "hard-driving force in the family."(Lyons 2) Lucy was a country schoolteacher, who taught all her children how to read and write, which lead to six out of her seven children earning a college degree (Lyons 2-3). Unfortunately, Lucy Hurston died when Zora was nine years of age (Otfinoski 46). Zora was the seventh child out of a family of eight (Otfinoski 45). During her childhood she felt unloved by her father and thus was seen as the odd on out (Lyons 2).

Zora's education was comprised of six years of grammar school, high school, and several prestigious colleges. Zora attended grammar school in Eatonville, Florida at Hungerford School around 1907 (Lyons 3). The summer of 1917 Zora began the next step of her education by attending Morgan Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. By 1918 when she had finished her high school requirements, Zora had attended multiple schools, in order to gain the best education as an African American female. 1918-1919 Zora attended Howard Prep School in Washington D.C. In 1920 she earned her associates degree and in 1924 earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology at Howard University (Lyons 24-6). During the latter part of her education she attended Barnard College where she studied anthropology. "Always daring to be different," Zora chose herself a shocking major (Otfinoski 47). At a time when any woman going to college was rare, a black woman studying anthropology as well as attending college was unheard of (Otfinoski 47). Education for Zora never stopped, as she went to Columbia University in 1935 in hopes of achieving her Ph.D. on a Fellowship for the Rosenwald Foundation. Zora's efforts in obtaining her Ph.D. were lacking. Her education received a boost in 1939 when she received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Morgan State College (Hurston 204). This was the pinnacle and end of her academic achievements.

Zora Hurston's career was one of storytelling and teaching. Zora used her talents to create "realistic black character's and speech in her books," as well as teaching students the art of African American drama (Lyons IX). Zora's career began at an early age of eight years old. Her wild imagination sprung to life with inspiration from her mother, Lucy. Her father's disapproval of her writing sparked an even greater sense of rebellion in her youth, which led to her pioneering efforts as an African American woman (Lyons 1-4). Her first job was not as a writer, as many would suspect. She worked as both a waitresses in a nightclub and as a manicurist in a black-owned barbershop during the summer of 1918 (Otfinoski 47). After Zora's undergraduate studies at Barnard College she began a career in...
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