Twentieth Century Literary Giants
Courtesy of Library of Congress.
A contemporary of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston was a self-styled "literary anthropologist" who compiled a wealth of folktales, spirituals, sermons, work songs, blues, and children's games beginning in her hometown of Eatonville, Florida and eventually throughout the South of the 1920s and 30s. The result of her research, Mules and Men (1935), was the first collection of black folklore published by an African American. Using the largely oral culture of the rural South to inform her literary voice, Hurston went on to publish a second volume of ethnography based on research in Jamaica and Haiti, more than fifty short stories, essays and plays, and four novels, the most famous of which is Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Underappreciated in her lifetime, her work has had a profound impact on African American writers of the late twentieth and early twenty first century. She is shown here beating a hountar, or mama drum, in 1937.