Born in Eatonville, Florida, Hurston moved to Harlem in 1925 at the
urging of scholars Charles S. Johnson and Alain Locke. Hurston's short
story "Spunk" and her play "Color Struck" had just
won her second place in a writing contest sponsored by the magazine
For Hurston, the name of that publication proved to be prophetic:
Harlem gave her a chance to meet and mingle with like-minded artists
and intellectuals—notably the poet Langston Hughes—at
gatherings and parties thrown by Carl Van Vechten, A'Lelia Walker,
and others. Hurston also met a wealthy widow named Charlotte Mason,
who wound up giving Hurston key financial support.
Hurston's writing explores the courageous struggles of African Americans
living in the rural South in the early 1800s. It brings to life the
dialects, customs, and folklore of the region. Her first novel, Jonah's
Gourd Vine—set in a small, all-black Florida town—was
published to critical success in 1934. Her acclaimed 1937 novel, Their
Eyes Were Watching God, describes an independent black woman's
search for self-fulfillment.
Hurston's career path did not lead steadily upward. Nearing the end
of her life, this successful novelist and pillar of the Harlem Renaissance
was forced to support herself as a maid. Yet through times thick and
thin, she never blamed events on the color of her skin. In her 1928
essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," she wrote: "I
have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation
more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening
my oyster knife."
the most prizes at the first Opportunity
her talent, Alain
Locke included "Spunk" in The New Negro anthology.
artists and writers, she created the magazine Fire!!
Hughes she wrote the play Mule Bone—a bid to break