Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida, a small town inhabited primarily by African-Americans. Her mother died shortly after her birth leaving Hurston in the care of her father, who quickly married a woman who sent little Hurston to school in Jacksonville, providing her with her first glance at racial segregation. Hurston left school due to financial difficulties and family problems which led her to stay with her mother's friends. At age fourteen, she worked as a maid to earn money for her education but failed miserably. Hurston's first successful employment was with the Gilbert and Sullivan repertory company, which offered Hurston travel and reading time (Howard 13-16). When that job was exhausted, she worked as a waitress to get through school in Baltimore. She later attended Morgan Academy supported by employment with a clergyman. In the fall of 1918-1920 Hurston attended Howard University where she met and fell in love with Herbert Sheen, who she eventually married--a marriage that lasted only four years (Howard 17).
Hurston's literary work captured the attention of Charles Spurgeon Johnson, founder of Opportunity Magazine. Based on the merit of her work, he invited Hurston to come to New York, which was her introduction to the Harlem Renaissance and which provided her with inspiration and opportunity in the literary world of African-Americans (Howard 17-19). Hurston's "Sweat" and "The Gilded Six Bits" were influenced by Hurston's life within the Harlem Renaissance.
Hurston's "Sweat," written in 1926, portrays two primary influences in her life. The first influence was Hurston's childhood town of Eatonville and its economic situation (Lillios 13). Hurston's town was ideal for a young African-American girl in the early nineteenth century, providing a safe haven from restrictions of race (Howard 16). The town also preserved its African-American culture and history due to its seclusion from Winter Park (Seidel 110-111). "Sweat" reveals much of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document