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She Was A Major Figure In The Harlem Renaissance, And She Was The First Black Graduate At Barnard College, Yet Despite Her Success, She Struggled With Poverty

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Some of the best writers and authors are known for transporting us to different worlds and helping us see from different perspectives.

Zora Neale Hurston was a writer whose plays and short stories written during the Harlem Renaissance accurately depicted and embraced Black culture in the 1920s and 30s.

Zora was born in Alabama in 1891. After she was born, her family relocated to Eatonville, Florida. After finishing high school, Zora earned her associate’s degree at Howard University in Washington D.C. and co-founded the school’s newspaper, The Hilltop.

In 1925, she went to the famous Barnard College in New York City on a scholarship and got a degree in anthropology. She was the college’s first Black graduate in 1928. While in college, she met influential writers Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. The three of them ended up becoming major figures in the cultural Harlem Renaissance that took place in New York City throughout the 1920s and 30s.

Zora spent many years researching Black culture and history, traveling to countries like Jamaica and Haiti to further grasp African religion. She wrote about her travels and published her stories in several newspapers nationwide.

Zora also had a great talent for fiction and creative writing. While the short stories she wrote throughout the 1920s didn’t receive as much recognition as they deserved, a collection of them that was published after her death in 2020 serves as a vivid representation of African American folk culture.

One of Zora’s earliest books was published in 1935 and titled “Mules and Men,” which documented African-American folklore stories she collected throughout her journeys in the South. She also collaborated with Langston Hughes and co-wrote the play “Mule Bone,” which was written in 1930 and finally produced and staged in 1991.

Zora wrote more books throughout the late 1930s, one of them being her fiction novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which many consider her greatest work and one of the most influential stories written during the Harlem Renaissance.

Zora also had a passion for the performing arts and taught as a drama teacher at North Carolina College during her later years. Unfortunately, despite her success as a drama, Zora was often underpaid and struggled with living in poverty.

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