Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Born and raised in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated all-black town in the United States, Zora Neale Hurston (1903-60) ranks among the most influential writers of the 20th century, not simply for her influence on subsequent African-American writers but also for the passionate voice she gave to black culture in this country. After attending Morgan State College, Howard University, and Columbia University, Hurston began her career as a folklorist and social anthropologist, traveling to Haiti to study the evolution of the voodoo tradition. She quickly rejected the distanced, scientific attitude of the researcher, however, in order to become immersed in the culture. In two volumes, Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938), Hurston gathered the tales of the American South and the Caribbean. Hurston is most known, however, for her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel that created controversy by refusing to admit black inferiority while simultaneously refusing to depict its characters as victims of a world that thought them inferior. Two recent volumes, The Sanctified Church (1981) and Spunk (1984), collect her essays and short fiction, respectively.