The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
Jan 7, 1891
Zora Neale Hurston Born
Zora Neale Hurston is born in Notasulga, Alabama. She is the fifth of eight children born to John and Lucy Potts Hurston.
Move to Eatonville
The Hurston family moves to Eatonville, an incorporated, self-governed, all-African American town north of Orlando, Florida. Incorporated in 1887, it is the oldest such town in the United States.
Hurston's mother Lucy Potts Hurston dies. Soon after, her father marries Mattie Moge, a young woman only six years older than Zora. It is said that Hurston and her new stepmother bitterly dislike each other.
After leaving home and school and working a number of odd jobs to support herself, Hurston moves to Baltimore, Maryland. In order to qualify for a free high school education, 26-year-old Hurston lies about her age, claiming her birth year as 1901. She maintains the falsehood until her death.
High School Graduation
Hurston completes her high school graduation requirements at Morgan Academy in Baltimore. After graduation, she works as a waitress and a manicurist to earn money.
Hurston at Howard University
Hurston enrolls at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Hurston receives her associates degree from Howard.
Hurston Publishes First Story
"John Redding Goes to Sea," Zora Neale Hurston's first short story, is published in the Howard literary magazine Stylus.
"Drenched in Light"
Hurston's short story "Drenched in Light" is published in the journal Opportunity.
Transfer to Barnard College
Hurston submits the short story "Spunk" and the play "Color Struck" to a literary contest sponsored by Opportunity and wins second place for both. In the same year, she receives a scholarship to Barnard College and transfers, studying anthropology with the scholar Franz Boas.
Hurston Visits Harlem
Hurston travels to Harlem to conduct field research for Boas on black life. She meets several other young black artists, including Langston Hughes. Several of Hurston's short stories are published during this time. She and Hughes also launch the short-lived but influential black literary journal Fire!!
Hurston Marries Herbert Sheen
Hurston travels to Florida to research black communities there. On May 19, Hurston marries Herbert Sheen, a fellow Howard student.
"How It Feels To Be Colored Me"
Her essay "How It Feels To Be Colored Me" appears in The World Tomorrow. By this time, Hurston's marriage to Sheen is beginning to disintegrate.
She and Langston Hughes work on a play entitled "Mule Bone". They disagree over authorship of the play and by 1931, their friendship ends. Hurston deeply regrets the split with Hughes.
July 7, 1931
Hurston's divorce from Herbert Sheen becomes final.
Jan 10, 1932
The Great Day
"The Great Day", a musical written and choreographed by Hurston, premieres on Broadway.
Hurston's First Novel
Hurston's first novel, "Jonah's Gourd Vine", is published. Her essays and short stories appear frequently in literary journals. She begins to study for a doctorate (never completed) at Columbia University with the help of a Rosenwald Fellowship.
Mules and Men
Hurston publishes a collection of black folklore entitled "Mules and Men".
Obeah Research in Jamaica
Hurston is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study Obeah, the practice of sorcery in the West Indies. From April to September she conducts research in Jamaica.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Her Guggenheim Fellowship extended, Hurston continues her research in Haiti. While there, she writes "Their Eyes Were Watching God" in seven weeks. She returns to the United States shortly before the September 18 publication of the novel.
Tell My Horse
Hurston writes and publishes "Tell My Horse", an account of West Indian Obeah practices based on her research.
Federal Writers' Project
Hurston is hired by the Federal Writers' Project to record African-American culture in Florida. Later in the year, she accepts a position as a drama instructor at North Carolina College for Negroes. Her novel "Moses, Man of the Mountain" is published. She marries her lover, Albert Price III.
Dust Tracks on a Road
Her memoir "Dust Tracks on a Road" is published to critical praise. It receives the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for its take on race relations.
After a brief and tumultuous marriage, Hurston and Price's divorce is finalized.
Seraph on the Swanee
Hurston moves to Honduras to research the black experience in Central America. She writes the novel "Seraph on the Swanee", which is published the following year.
A financially-strapped Hurston takes a job as a maid in Florida. She continues to publish well-regarded essays in the Saturday Evening Post and other publications.
Hurston as Reporter
The Pittsburgh Courier hires Hurston to cover the sensational case of Ruby McCollum, a black woman who shot and killed her white lover, whom she accused of forcing her to have sex.
Hurston begins a two-year stint as a columnist for the Fort Pierce Chronicle. During this time she also works as a substitute teacher.
Hurston suffers a stroke and is forced to move into the St. Lucie County Welfare Home.
Jan 28, 1960
Death of Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston dies of hypertensive heart disease at the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. Penniless and alone at the time of her death, friends from far and wide helped pay for her funeral. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce.