Google is starting the year off on the right foot: here in the US, the first Doodle of 2014 honors American writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.
Here at Speaking Up, let’s learn more about the Doodle-worthy Hurston (stay tuned for an upcoming post wrapping up the Doodle gender stats for 2013!):
Born on this date, January 7, in 1891, Hurston was an avid reader for as long as she could remember. She pursued higher education at Howard University and was a co-founder of the student newspaper there, then continued on to Barnard College. During the time she spent at Columbia, Hurston was the school’s only black student. She studied, and conducted field work in, anthropology, focused on the culture of the American South and the Caribbean. As part of her ethnographic scholarship, Hurston worked extensively in Jamaica, Haiti, and Honduras, and was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Hurston published non-fictional accounts and collections of folklore based on her anthropological scholarship, and was also a writer of fiction, an essayist, and a playwright who worked at the center of the Harlem Renaissance. She achieved acclaim for the influential Mules and Men, an anthology of African-American folklore. In addition, Hurston served as a faculty member at what is now North Carolina Central University and founded the dramatic arts school at Bethune-Cookman University.
Hurston wrote the novel for which she is most well-known, Their Eyes Were Watching God, while she was conducting field work in Haiti. Later in life, however, she fell into literary obscurity, and died in poverty. Her books were not in print when Alice Walker revived literary interest in Hurston’s work. As a result of this revival and the Black Studies movement in scholarship of culture and literature, Hurston’s work re-emerged in the last quarter of the 20th century. Since then, Their Eyes Were Watching God has been named one of the 100 best novels published in the English language by Time Magazine.
Hurston died following a stroke in 1960. She was buried in an unmarked grave, which has since been marked with a headstone by writer/scholars Alice Walker and Charlotte Hunt.