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.
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'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:
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.
- 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
- Polk County: A Comedy of Negro Life on a Sawmill Camp with Authentic Negro Music in Three Acts
Last modified 10-29-08.