Illustration: Monica Ahanonu

Zora Neale Hurston Protected Black Stories

As a new collection of her short fiction reminds us, she gave honor to the mundaneness and magic of rural, Southern Black people

Jennifer Baker
ZORA
Published in
9 min readJan 15, 2020

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OnOn May 12, 1925, Zora Neale Hurston sent anti-suffragist and author Annie Nathan Meyer some of her work, as requested. Eleven days earlier the two had met when Hurston was awarded prizes at Opportunity literary magazine’s contest, along with contemporaries Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. The note accompanying this parcel asserted an unjaded perspective from Hurston after such an illustrious night: “…the little praise I have received does not affect me unless it be to make me work furiously. Instead of a pillow to rest upon, it is a goad to prod me. I know that I can only get into the sunlight by work and only remain there by more work.”

Even after winning prizes in several categories. Even after attaining a scholarship to Barnard College (where Hurston would become the first Black graduate in 1928), with the aid of a new friendship with Meyer. Even with this level of budding notoriety and support from mentors like Alain Locke at the time, Hurston knew there were no…

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Jennifer Baker
ZORA
Writer for

Writer/Editor; creator, Minorities in Publishing podcast; editor of EVERYDAY PEOPLE (2018, Atria Books); 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Fellow. Website: jennifernbaker.com