Zora Neale Hurston
(January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist
and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance
, best known for the 1937
novel Their Eyes Were Watching God
. Hurston was "purposefully inconsistent in the birth dates she dispensed during her lifetime, most of which were fictitious." For a long time, scholars believed that she was born in Eatonville, Florida
in 1901. In the 1990s, a filmmaker established that Hurston had been born in Notasulga, Alabama
and moved to Eatonville at a young age, spending the remainder of her childhood there. It was Eatonville, the first all-Black town to be incorporated in the United States, that inspired her imagination.
Zora was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston. Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter, and her mother was a schoolteacher. When she was three, Zora's family moved to Eatonville, an all-Black town with a population of 125. Her father later became mayor of the town, which Zora would glorify in her stories as a place black Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. The death of her mother in 1904, when Zora was thirteen, was a devastating event for Zora as she was "passed around the family like a bad penny" by her father for the next several years.