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 Their Eyes Were Watching God Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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Their Eyes Were Watching God: Biography: Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Eatonville, Florida (the name of one primary setting in Their Eyes Were Watching God.) Hurston attended the Morgan Academy in Baltimore then Howard University from 1919-1924, where she published various short stories and plays in the campus literary magazine. From 1925-1927 Hurston attended Barnard College, studying with famed anthropologist Franz Boas. In addition to doing subsequent folklore research in Florida, British Honduras, and South Carolina, Hurston 
was the predominant black woman writer in the United States, publishing seven books and more than fifty shorter works. Hurston published short works throughout the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's and early thirties, and worked on a play, the later aborted Mule Bone, with Renaissance contemporary Langston Hughes. Her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine, was published in 1934, followed by the anthropological work Mules and Men in 1935. In 1937, Hurston 
wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in seven weeks while visiting Haiti after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship. The novel, published in September of 1937, was criticized by many members of the black community -- including Native Son author, Richard Wright -- for its exploitation of  African-Americans. In 1948, Hurston was accused, falsely, of molesting a ten-year-old boy. One year after her arrest the case against Hurston was dismissed. In the 1950's Hurston worked as librarian substitute teacher while continuing to write for various journals. Hurston suffered a stroke in 1959, and was forced to enter a welfare home. On January 28, 1960 Hurston died of "hypertensive heart disease" and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida. Hurston's literary work - well regarded throughout her career - fell into obscurity until the early 1970's, when Alice Walker (of The Color Purple fame) set out to discover and mark Zora Neale Hurston's grave. After doing so, Walker published "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston," her depiction of the journey in Ms. Magazine, which led to the contemporary revival of one of the most influential African-American female authors. 




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