At a time in our history when African Amercians were frequently denied the most basic opportunities, Zora Neale Hurston worked hard to obtain an education and establish herself as a writer. Her life experiences are full of lessons for all of us. For a short time in 1958, Zora taught English at Lincoln Park Academy, then a segregated school. Ironically, because she could not get a state certificate quickly enough, this nationally-renowned writer was not hired to teach on a permanent basis.
Zora Neale Hurston was a nationally known author and folklorist, had a prestigious college degree, and had taught in college classrooms. But in the school system, rules are rules, and in February 1958, when Zora came to teach English at Lincoln Park Academy, she found that her education and extensive professional experience would not exempt her from obtaining an official State of Florida teaching certificate. Zora was unable to obtain transcripts and other support quickly enough to satisfy school authorities, who were under pressure to meet accreditation requirements (which included hiring fully-certified teachers). As a result, Zora only taught a short time and students missed a rare opportunity to meet and learn from a great talent. Today, historians and literary scholars continue to find wisdom in the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston.
When Zora came to teach at Lincoln Park Academy, she was near the end of her life's journey. Her formal education had been greatly amplified through travel and interaction with other creative people. Zora's autobiography, "Dust Tracks on a Road" (1942), did not capture all of her rich life, and she was often pressed to publish more of her personal story. Today, historians and literature buffs continue to study Zora and search for clues to her character and passion for work.
Lincoln Park Academy
Today, Lincoln Park Academy is a magnet school of choice, rated A+ by the Florida Department of Education, and has been listed as one of the nation's most outstanding high schools by Newsweek magazine. The school's roots reach back to 1921, when an ambitious group of African American families worked to raise money and support for the area's first four-year black high school—at a time when there was no high school available for African Americans south of Palatka (Putnam County, north Florida). When Lincoln Park Academy was accredited in 1928, it was one of only four accredited African American high schools in Florida. The school achieved its status in part thanks to Principal James A. Espy, who insisted that (most) teachers have college degrees, an almost unheard of requirement for this time.