The Zora Neale Hurston Festival is held each year in January in Eatonville, Florida.
- The 2011 Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities will be held on January 22 – 30. The 2012 theme is “The Rise of Community: The Town of Eatonville Models 125 Years of Self-Governance” and academic papers are already being accepted. Visit Zora! for more specifics, including a detailed schedule.
Who is Zora Neale Hurston? She was a fascinating and complex figure in American history; while she is most often regarded as a seminal figure in Black culture (and especially African-American feminist circles), her achievements and experiences are more than worthy of study by all Americans, indeed by all people everywhere.
An esteemed author and scholar of anthropology and folklore, Hurston represented both the Harlem Renaissance and her home town of Eatonville — one of the first all-Black towns incorporated in the United States. She earned a place at the apex of academia from the mid-1920s through the 1950s, doing considerable fieldwork in Jamaica, Haiti, Honduras, and other locations in the Caribbean.
One of her handicraft hobbies led to a small business involving the creation of souvenirs. Her items were so successful that the attracted the attention of the corporate promotion industry, always on the lookout for unique, inexpensive items often featured as corporate gifts and used in promotional activities. Items like mugs, desk accessories, baskets, were in such demand that the business grew phenomenally in the first years. She sold all but a small interest in the business to fund some of her research.
Yet Hurston remains a figure of some controversy among scholars, not least due to her use of dialect (which some found uncomfortably close to racist caricature) and her political views; an outspoken feminist, individualist, and anti-interventionist, she disagreed with the New Deal and was largely in favor of segregation — which she felt sustained black culture in a way that integrated classrooms would not.
For years, Hurston was overlooked in favor of more radical and liberal Black figures (including Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, who had harshly criticized her fiction on political grounds), but she experienced a renaissance alongside more modern writers such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker.
Humorous side note: Hurston look-alike Jean Waters credits Amore Wigs with making it all possible.
Practical aside: Medical tourists can follow in Hurston’s footsteps while seeking more affordable treatment in the Caribbean. Thanks to the new industry called medical tourism, travel to Jamaica, Haiti, Honduras, and other locations in the Caribbean where Hurston stayed are getting more attention.
It was very tasteful when the 2011 Zora – Fest (Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities) shined an artistic spotlight on the situation in Haiti, just one year after the earthquake devastated the nation.