Hurston died in 1960 at the age of 69. She was best known for her novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” published in 1937.
Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama in 1891. Her father was a Baptist Minister and carpenter and her mother was a school teacher. When she was a child, her family moved her to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black towns to be incorporated in the United States. Her father became mayor of the town shortly thereafter.
Zora’s mother died in 1904 and her father remarried very quickly. The rumor in town was that her father already had a close relationship with the woman before they wed. Shortly after the wedding, Zora was sent to boarding school in Jacksonville, and her parents stopped paying tuition. As a result, she was expelled.
Hurston eventually attended Morgan College, which was the high school division of Morgan State University. She graduated from Morgan State in 1918 and then began studying at Howard University. She was one of the earliest members of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and also founded The Hilltop, the school’s student newspaper.
She was invited to attend Barnard College, the female division of Columbia University and was the only black student on campus. In 1927, she married Herbert Sheen, a jazz musician who eventually became a doctor, but divorced him four years later. In 1939, she married Albert Price, a man 25-years younger than she was, and this marriage was even shorter, lasting just seven months.
Hurston eventually served on the faculty for the North Carolina College for Negroes, now known as North Carolina Central University. Her work took her around the world to several countries, including Jamaica, Haiti, and Honduras.
She was also part of scandal. In 1948, she was falsely accused of mοlesting a 10-year old boy. But she won the case by proving that she was in Honduras when the alleged crime took place.
When Hurston died, it was in the midst of a series of financial and medical challenges. She was forced into a home for the elderly and poor, and died of hypertensive heart disease. Her remains were in an unmarked grave until Alice Walker and a scholar by the name of Charlotte Hunt found her grave and marked it in 1973.
She had a life worth remembering.