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Incredible Facts About Zora Neale Hurston

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Near her 125th birthday, the world remembers the life of Zora Neale Hurston. Here are some interesting facts about one of the greatest people of the 1900s. For someone born on January 7, 1891, Hurston persevered despite the lack of opportunities presented to African-American women at the time.

She persevered and created the opportunities she needed to move forward. Well-known for her works Their Eyes Were Watching God and Mules and Men, here are more interesting facts about the author:

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1. Nothing But a Number

Hurston was one that was always thirsty for whatever knowledge she could absorb. Circumstances, such as a father who ceased to pay school bills and living with a sibling’s growing family, help with the family took precedence over learning.

It was in 1917 that Hurston decided it was high time she began to learn what she had been missing. At the time in Maryland, a law allowed “colored youths” to attend public school classes, provided they were 20 years or younger.

The solution? Hurston simply informed the administration she had been born in 1901, making her ten years younger than her actual age.

2. She Studied Magic

In such times, studying such a thing if you were so inclined, was simply passed over without another mention. Having studied anthropology throughout college, Hurston wished to know about African-American life and began with hoodoo, voodoo’s American cousin.

The only way to become familiar, though, was to adopt their tires and rituals, participating in the magical ceremonies with others.

The experiences of fasting and laying down on a snakeskin for three days left her with these thoughts: “On the third night, I had dreams that seemed real for weeks. In one, I strode across the heavens with lightning flashing from under my feet, and grumbling thunder following in my wake.”

3. Huston Looked into Hollywood

Since the film had first become a thing, people considered turning books into movies. The same can be said for Zora Neale Hurston. Warner Bros. had nearly picked up Seraph on the Suwanee (1948) to introduce actress Jane Wyman, but it seemed that would not be in the cards.

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Despite her book not being turned into a film, Hurston still made her way into the Hollywood film industry as a story consultant for Paramount Pictures in October of 1941. At $100 a week, the job was well-paid for the time but Hurston had said the position was “not the end of things for me.”

4. Working As a Maid Benefitted Her in a Unique Way

Even the most seasoned writer needs a secondary source of income when their titles have not sold yet. With her largest payout at $943.75, the author had to make it work because things slowed down in 1950.

While working as a maid, her employer had discovered she was publishing work on the side. Thanks to her employer’s excitement at the revelation, it earned national headline news time and brought the author, even more, writing assignments.

5. Not Everyone Loved Her Work

By today’s standards, Hurston’s book, Their Eyes Were Watching God was the Masterpiece of all her works. It’s the story of Janie Crawford and how she’s at one point forced to kill her third husband after being bitten by a rabid dog.

Two authors in the African-American community took issue with her work. Richard Wright said, “Miss Hurston seems to have no desire whatsoever to move in the direction of serious fiction.” He also said specifically of the book, “The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought.” And author Alain Locke, a supporter of her previously published work, said: “When will this Negro novelist of maturity, who knows how to tell a story convincingly – which is Miss Hurston’s cradle gift, come to grips with motive fiction and social document fiction?”

6. She Helped Create a Black Doll

The doll choices for black children and their parents in the 1950s came in two categories: white and “black with racist features.” Hurston teamed up with her friend Sara lee Creech to create something they dubbed “anthropologically correct.”

Released in 1951, the doll only remained in stores for a few years. Even some years later, some women recollect the doll making them feel good as children.

7. Her Works were Nearly Destroyed

After Hurston passed in 1960, a yardman was charged with clearing out her former home. The yardman had the bright idea of simply setting the home ablaze with all of the author’s belongings, including letters and unfinished manuscripts.

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Thanks to Deputy Sherriff Patrick Duval who had met her in the 1930s as a high schooler, recovered her papers which are now in preserved at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

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