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Anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston was a fixture of the Harlem Renaissance before writing her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Harper Lee - Mini Biography (3:04)
African-American author and Harlem Renaissance figure Zora Neale Hurston studied anthropology and incorporated folklore and themes of racial heritage into her work.
As part of the Great Migration, jazz legend Duke Ellington moved from Washington D.C. to New York and played a major role in the Harlem Renaissance as the band leader of the Cotton Club.
Author and poet Langston Hughes lived in a brownstone on 127th Street in Harlem and found inspiration for his writing in his beloved neighborhood.
In 1961, Harper Lee became the only author to win the Pulitzer Prize for her first and only novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
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That same year, Hurston spent time in Jamaica conducting anthropological research.
In 1942, Hurston published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. This personal work was well-received by critics, but her life and career soon began to falter. Hurston was charged with molesting a 10-year-old boy in 1948; despite being able to prove that she was out of the country at the time of the incident, she suffered greatly from this false accusation.
Despite all of her accomplishments, Hurston struggled financially and personally during her final decade. She kept writing, but she had difficulty getting her work published. Additionally, she experienced some backlash for her criticism of the 1955 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which called for the end of school segregation.
A few years later, Hurston had suffered several strokes and was living in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. The once-famous writer and folklorist died poor and alone on January 28, 1960, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.
More than a decade later, another great talent helped to revive interest in Hurston and her work: Alice Walker wrote about Hurston in the essay "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston," published in Ms. magazine in 1975. Walker's essay helped introduce Hurston to a new generation of readers, and encouraged publishers to print new editions of Hurston's long-out-of-print novels and other writings. In addition to Walker, Hurston heavily influenced Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison, among other writers.
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