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 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Hurston was "purposefully inconsistent in the birth dates she dispensed during her lifetime, most of which were fictitious".[1] For a long time, scholars believed that Hurston was born and raised in Eatonville, Florida, with a birthdate in 1901. In the 1990s, it came to light that she was actually born in Notasulga, Alabama in 1891. She moved to Eatonville at a young age, and spent her childhood there. Hurston also lived in Fort Pierce, Florida and attended Lincoln Park Academy. At age 13, her mother died and later that year, her father sent her to a private school in Jacksonville.

She began her undergraduate studies at Howard University but left after a few years, unable to support herself. She was later offered a scholarship to Barnard College where she received her B.A. in anthropology in 1927. While at Barnard, she conducted ethnographic research.

Later Hurston applied her ethnographic training to document African American folklore in her critically acclaimed book Mules and Men (1935) along with fiction (Their Eyes Were Watching God) and dance, assembling and leading a finger popping group which performed works such as the 1932 Broadway performance The Great Day. In addition, Hurston was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel to Haiti and conduct research in 1937. She was one of the first academics to conduct an ethnographic study of the Vodun, also a subject of study for fellow dancer/anthropologist Katherine Dunham.In 1954 Hurston (who had fallen upon hard times) was assigned to cover the murder trial of Ruby McCollum for the Pittsburgh Courier.

Hurston died penniless in obscurity and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, FL until African-American novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found and marked the grave in 1973, sparking a Hurston renaissance.
Zora Neale Hurston
Selected writings by Zora Neale Hurston

The Mule-Bone