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Zora Neale Hurston: Scholar, Writer & Anthropologist

Tinted photograph of Zora Neale Hurston

Ms. Hurston’s work in a range of fields contributed greatly to the preservation of African-American folk traditions, as well as to American literature. She was born in 1891 and at age three her family moved to Eatonville, Fla., the first incorporated black community in America, of which her father would become mayor. In her writings she would glorify Eatonville as a utopia where black Americans could live independent of the prejudices of white society.

Hurston studied anthropology at Barnard College in New York with famed scholar Franz Boas (she was the first African-American woman who did graduate work at Columbia University). She conducted field work in African-American folklore all over the South. She began publishing novels; Their Eyes Were Watching God is often considered her finest novel. Photograph of Zora Neale Hurston smiling and laughing

She taught for some years at what is now North Carolina Central University, and won a Guggenheim fellowship to pursue her writing. Her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, was one of her last major works; in it, she wrote, "I want a busy life, a just mind, and a timely death." She died in 1960.

Hurston's work encouraged the study of folklore and anthropology nationwide. Her intense focus on the lives of African-American women has been of equal or greater impact.

(From the National Women’s Hall of Fame Website, http://www.greatwomen.org/ )

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