Resource

Life Story: Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960)

Harlem Renaissance Author and Anthropologist

The story of a Black writer and anthropologist who committed her career to studying and celebrating African American folklore and culture.

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, April 3, 1938. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, Washington, D.C.

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Unidentified Woman With Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston

Unidentified Woman With Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, 1927. Yale University Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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Zora Neale Hurston

James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, 1927. Yale University Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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Suggested Activities

  • Zora was influenced by the teachings of Booker T. Washington at an early age. Encourage students to research his philosophy and consider how it may have shaped Zora’s life. 
  • Zora was one of thousands of women to relocate to Harlem from the South. Learn more about women’s experiences using the photographs of the Great Migration
  • Compare Zora’s life to that of Bessie Smith. Both women were born in the South and traveled extensively. They even met once! How were their lives similar and different, and how do they each exemplify life in the Jazz Age? 
  • Consider Zora’s life—and death—within the broader context of race relations in the 1920s. Combine this life story with the Great Migration photographs, the WKKK document, and the life story of Bessie Smith to go deeper. 
  • Deepen your understanding of this history by exploring the Harlem resources in our Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow curriculum.
  • Compare Zora’s life with that of Pauli Murray. Both women studied at Howard University. What were their experiences like? Why was it important for them to attend a historically Black school?

Themes

AMERICAN CULTURE

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