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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Jumping at the sun

“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at the sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Hurston, folklorist, anthropologist, and author was born on this date in 1891 and was one of the best-known Black writers and dramatists of the 20th century. 

A native of Alabama, she studied at Howard University and began writing as a journalist, eventually co-founding the school’s student newspaper.  In 1925, she was offered a scholarship to further her writing at Barnard College (Columbia University) in New York and became the University’s sole Black student.  From there, her writing reputation blossomed and grew as part of the renowned Harlem Renaissance, which she helped create with writer Langston Hughes.

A master of the flashback style of narration, Hurston wrote more than 50 short stories, plays and essays – most exploring or sharing the African-American experience from the last part of the 19th century through the first decades of the 20th
She also authored 4 novels, of which she once said, “I regret all of my books.”   Her best known was the award-winning Their Eyes Were Watching God, a seminal work in both African-American and women's literature.   Time magazine included the 1937 novel in its 100 best English-language novels of the last century.  A terrific researcher, she noted, “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

Hurston died of heart disease in 1960, but many additional works continue to be uncovered.  In 2015 she was one of the first 12 writers formally inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.

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