Reviving the Genius of Zora Neale Hurston


I first encountered the work of writer/ anthropologist/ folk-lorist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) in the early 1990s when I was researching voodoo and the blues (thank you, New York Public Library). (See my earlier piece about her here) Her published fieldwork from the 1920s and ’30s is amazing, not just by reason of WHAT she captured for all time, African American byways that like all folk culture are ever in danger of dissolving in the face of modernity, but HOW she reported it. She brought an artist’s instinct to the table. She knew what was important, what would engage and entertain and move us, and how to shape it and present it. This gift would also inform her fiction, which she is better known for today, and which I finally read and enjoyed over the past few months.

The occasion for that recent reading binge was preparation for this feature in this week’s Villager, about the New Federal Theatre’s new revival of Laurence Holder’s Zora Neale Hurston: A Theatrical Biography. I was thrilled to get interview both Holder and legendary director Woodie King Jr. (founder of the New Federal Theatre) for the story. The show opened last night, and I can’t wait to see it. For my feature in The Villager go here, and for my earlier tribute to Hurston on Travalanche go here.

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