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End Times

When nothing else could take her down, Zora was hit with a blow she would never recover from. She was falsely accused of molesting a ten-year-old mentally retarded boy. Her passport logs her as out of the country at the time, and her publisher stood by her side. Later, the boy said he'd lied and the charges were dropped. But a bout of depression began Zora's slow decline. She wrote less, and struggled through a variety of short-term jobs. Despite her previous popularity, she died poor in 1960. And despite her attempts to establish a cemetery to remember famous blacks, she was buried without a marker.

Zora Neale Hurston U.S. Postage Stamp

Hurston U.S. postage stamp

Fame After Death

Zora was ahead of her own time. The 1950s might have forsaken her, but the universe did not. Her writings later kindled a fire in another female black writer, Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. In 1973, Walker put a marker on Zora's grave that reads, "Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South." Two years later, Ms. Magazine published Walker's essay titled, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston." From that time on, Zora shines in a society that can truly appreciate her. She is now the subject of college literature classes, and Their Eyes Were Watching God is assigned summer reading for high school students.

In 2003, the United States Postal Service issued the Zora Neale Hurston commemorative postage stamp. Her hometown of Eatonville, Florida got the honor of distributing the first batch of these stamps. Zora festivals are celebrated annually in both Eatonville and Fort Pierce, Florida.

Zora in St. Augustine

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora's widespread travels brought her in and out of St. Augustine. Her longest stay was in 1942, when she taught at Florida Normal College. The plaque at 791 West King Street marks where she rented a room. While here, she finished her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, and recruited Jean Parker Waterbury for her literary agent; Waterbury was later president of the St. Augustine Historical Society. Zora also became friends with Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Rawlings owned and operated a hotel at Castle Warden (now Ripley's), where the two authors would hang out together. Another local author, Edith Pope, was out of town at the time, and complained to Rawlings in a letter:

"It is really sad that the one winter Zorah Neal Hurston is in St. Augustine I am not. I've wanted to meet that woman for years on end, and have even hunted for her name in the Washington phone book with the intention of going to see her. I do think she is remarkable, an impression confirmed by your letter. Gee, I wish I thought I'd get home while she is there."

Zora's first marriage took place in St. Augustine. So did her second divorce. Perhaps that husband pressured her to conform to a mold, for she wrote an exit note:

"Dear Albert,
Here is my ring. By putting it into your hands, I hope this makes it unnecessary for you to come to see me for any reason what so ever. In fact, it is my earnest prayer that I never see you again, unless you are dead. If you will only be decent enough to die, I will buy me a red dress, send myself some flowers of congratulations, and come to your funeral.
Cordially, Zora.

Further Reading

  • Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937.
  • Zora Neale Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road (Autobiography), 1942.
  • Edith Pope Papers at George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida.
  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Papers at George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida.

Books by Zora Neale Hurston

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Every Tongue Got to Confess
  • Dust Tracks on a Road (Autobiography)
  • Mules and Men
  • Mule Bone, A Comedy of Negro Life (co-written with Langston Hughes)
  • Tell My Horse
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain
  • Seraph on the Suwannee
  • The Complete Stories (collection of her short fiction from 1921-1955)

Childrens Books by Hurston

  • What's the Hurry, Fox?
  • The Six Fools
  • The Three Witches
  • Lies and Other Tall Tales
  • The Skull Talks Back

Plays by Hurston

  • Cold Keener, a Revue
  • De Turkey and de Law: A Comedy in Three Acts
  • Forty Yards
  • Lawing and Jawing
  • Meet the Mamma: A Musical Play in Three Acts
  • The Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts
  • Poker!
  • Polk County: A Comedy of Negro Life on a Sawmill Camp with Authentic Negro Music in Three Acts
  • Spunk
  • Woofing

Last modified 10-29-08.

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