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Zora Neale Hurston

1891 – 1960

“There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet.”

Telling It Like It Was

In Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, Florida there was no racism. There were no white people either. As a result, Hurston wrote as she lived: blacks in her novels could achieve whatever they wanted. They could have any job, including mayor, which her father was for a time. Hurston didn’t buy into the notion of black oppression, simply because as a young girl, she hadn’t experienced it.

Her characters have little interaction with whites and lived in worlds few whites would recognize or understand. Hurston’s books are filled with strong black women who often succeeded despite the overpowering men in their lives. Though she would come to be considered one of the most important African-American writers of the 20th century, she wasn’t always popular with Harlem’s elite, who felt her work didn’t stress blacks’ experience in society dominated by white people.

Hurston didn’t give much thought to her critics, writing, “I wasn’t part of that sobbing school of Negrohood” that believed “nature has somehow given them a lowdown dirty deal.” Her career faded in the 1950s, and she died a poor woman, buried in an unmarked grave in Florida. 


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