Hurston, Zora Neale (1891–1960) By Freeman Marshall, Jennifer
Zora Neale Hurston was a writer and anthropologist. Since the Black Arts and Feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, she has been commonly acclaimed for her authorship of Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). She also penned poetry, short stories, plays, collections of folklore, journal articles, journalistic essays, and two ethnographies based on her anthropological fieldwork. Hurston was a prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance, variously referred to as the New Negro Movement or Negro Renaissance. This cultural arts and political movement was primarily concerned with addressing and uplifting conditions of Negro life, and central figures of the movement held complex and divergent views on how best to achieve this end. In general, the times called for a greater recognition of the abilities and contributions of Negro people in the USA and abroad, which included, for some, a celebration of southern US folk culture and references to African aesthetics. The renaissance spanned the period between 1917 and the mid-1930s and, although scholars offer various dates, it is generally marked by the end of the First World War through the Great Depression and includes the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the more urban centers of the North and Midwest. As a literary movement, its critical debates and conventions overlap and are often inextricable from modernist literary trends during the same period. Hurston’s body of work, which spanned some thirty years, reflects this zeitgeist of narrative, vernacular, and thematic experimentation. Additionally, Hurston’s education and research within the relatively nascent field of American anthropology, also influenced by modernist trends in the social sciences, contributed to the experimental elements in her literary productions.