On January 7, 1891, Zora Neale Hurston was born in the tiny town of Notasulga, Alabama. She was the fifth of eight children in the Hurston household. Her father John was a carpenter, sharecropper, and a Baptist preacher; and her mother Lucy, a former schoolteacher. Within a year of Zora's birth, the family moved to Eatonville, Florida; a town, which held historical significance as the first, incorporated Black municipality in the United States.
In 1904, thirteen-year-old Zora was devastated by the death of her mother. Later that same year, her unaffectionate father removed her from school and sent her to care for her brother's children. A rambunctious and restless teenager, Zora was eager to leave the responsibility of that household. She became a member of a traveling theater at the age of sixteen, and subsequently began domestic work for a white household. It was in this home that Hurston's intellectual spark was discovered. The woman for whom Zora worked, bought Zora her first book and arranged for her to attend high school at Morgan Academy (now known as Morgan State University) in Baltimore from which she graduated in June of 1918.
The following summer, Zora held jobs as a waitress and a manicurist. She then enrolled in Howard Prep School, followed by a distracted jaunt at Howard University. Although she spent nearly four years at the esteemed institution, she graduated with only a two-year Associates degree. It was during this time at Howard, that Hurston published her first stories. Starting in a college publication, then branching out into writing contests in newspapers and magazines, the early 1920's marked the beginning of Zora Neale Hurston's career as an author.
In 1925, Hurston headed to New York, just as the Harlem Renaissance was at its crest. She enrolled in Barnard College to study under Franz Boas, the father of...