The Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail commemorates the life of author Zora Neale Hurston through the prism of her Fort Pierce years. Markers along each stop of the trail, where memories of Zora come together, focus the light of her life's story onto her final days.
Zora Neale Hurston, writer, storyteller and dramatist, drew inspiration from the African American folklore of Florida. Nurtured by rural folkways, she knew no other world until sent off to boarding school at age 13. After a long struggle to work her own way through school, she arrived at Barnard College in New York during the "Roaring Twenties." There she shined among the stars in a constellation of talent called the Harlem Renaissance.
She revisited her roots in 1927 under a fellowship from Columbia University. With the "spy-glass of anthropology," given to her by her teacher, Frank Boas in hand, she set off in a used car named "Sassy Susie" on an adventure of research and rediscovery. The car would take her, over the next two decades, all across Florida, The car could not take her to the Caribbean Islands or to the coast of Central America.
Zora became a leading authority on African American anthropology. She sought to clarify the workings of folk tradition, to reveal its depth and complexity both as art and as a creator of community. She pioneered an inside-out approach to research, and a unique delivery that aimed at involving her audience in the ongoing action of tradition.
When she ultimately moved from documentary works to fiction, for which she is best known, her art was fueled by the same inspiration. To be true to herself, it was inevitable that she drop the spyglass and let the folklore live through her. Live, it did. She published seven books and nine more appeared posthumously. She wrote more than 140 short stories, articles, poems, songs and plays. Zora's writings are sold in bookstores around the world which validates her vision and attests to the broadness of her art. Her books have been translated into languages as different as Swedish, Italian and Korean.
Not content to document her folkloric discoveries with notebook, tape recorder and camera, Zora memorized the tales, songs, and dances she collected until she could tell, sing and perform them herself. Since she had taken folklore to heart from an early age, her sources stretched back to her childhood. She drew upon these sources as long as she wrote. And she wrote as long as she lived.
She taught, as well as wrote, in Fort Pierce. A fellow teacher at Lincoln Park Academy remembers a half-hour in a hallway streaming with kids spent explaining to Zora why her students should be allowed to break for assembly in the middle of her class. Zora could see nothing more important than their undivided attention to their studies. The years diminished neither her outspokenness nor her zest for learning.