California Newsreel Celebrates Zora Neale Hurston Month

January 11, 2011 § 4 Comments

Zora Neale Hurston (photo: Discover Black Heritage)

California Newsreel, which specializes in social justice films and documetaries, is celebrating the month of January as Zora Neale Hurston month. To say “Happy Birthday,” they are streaming for free the entire documentary: Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun on their website (see the preview above.) The film, written and produced by Kristy Andersen and directed by Sam Pollard, uses interesting interviews with scholars and rare film footage of the rural south (some of which was shot by Ms. Hurston herself) to paint an intricate portrait of this controversial writer, folklorist and anthropologist. It also features reenactments of a key 1943 radio interview. Zora Neale Hurston was born January 7, 1891, and

Zora Neale Hurston (photo: Discover Black Heritage)

went on to become one of the key figures in the Harlem Renaissance. But at the time she wrote what is now her most celebrated work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, she was pilloried by her fellow black writers and accused of not exposing the injustice of racism in her works like many of them were doing at the time. Some were also very uncomfortable with her liberal use of the black vernacular. However if anyone understood black people of that period in the rural south, it was Hurston, who spent years there as an ethnologist and anthropologist, studying and immersing herself in the black culture of Eatonville, Florida – her hometown – and Beaufort, South Carolina. She also did anthropological field work in Haiti, Jamaica and Honduras, and other islands in the Caribbean. All that research helped inform the complex characters and vivid scenery she evoked in her various novels, short stories and plays. But Hurston still could find little respect amongst her peers; it didn’t help that she favored segregation, opposing the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, which she felt would dismantle black culture and close-knit black communities. Sadly, she died in obscurity in 1960, was buried in an unmarked grave, and remained largely forgotten until 1975 when Alice Walker published the article In Search of Zora Neale Hurston in Ms. Magazine. That article is not available online, but Ms. Walker republished it in 1983 as “Looking for Zora” in her book In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. You can watch the full Zora Neale Hurston documentary at the California Newsreel Page below:

Zora Neale Hurston: Jump At The Sun

At the end of every January Eatonville, Florida holds a multi-day, multi-disciplinary event called the ZORA! Festival. You can find out more about it here. For more information about the documentary film, check out the California Newsreel page about it here. Bless…

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§ 4 Responses to California Newsreel Celebrates Zora Neale Hurston Month

  • Please see my press release on Zora Hurston and the Ruby McCollum story as it relates to the announcement of a new movie that fails to acknowledge Hurston’s contribution to the story. The release is posted on the above web site (, and is an important announcement for both Hurston’s legacy as well as Black History Month.

    Thanks you.

    • Dr. Ellis, thanks for pointing that out. I included the press release as a related article, because I’d already written the whole post before I came across it. That announcement certainly deserves it’s own separate post. Please keep us informed of developments, if you would!

  • Reblogged this on CoffeeBreak68 and commented:
    Remembering Zora!

  • Art Ellis says:

    Thanks for remembering Zora Hurston. I remember her visiting Live Oak when I was a child, and believe that she was severely slighted by William Huie, who ignored her after he obtained her research. Look for a TV special in the fall which I host, but I cannot give further details now since I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.

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