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The Harlem Renaissance also known as the “new Negro” movement presented anopportunity for African-Americans to redefine themselves. Scholars such as W. E. B. DuBois andRalph Ellison advocated that art and literature be used as propaganda to advance a sophisticatedimage of urban black people, and dissociate images of black people as plantation dwellers.However, a modernist wing of scholars comprised with the likes of Zora Neale Hurston andLangston Hughes challenged biases against depicting “lower class” blacks. Hurston, inparticular, even preferred to use rural settings, and her works became controversial because ofso-called “caricature” characters in her novels conversing in southern vernacular. In addition toHurston’s literary choices, her political sentiments became viewed as polemic. Huston’s actionsand sentiments stemmed from her life experiences; thus, this report aims to scrutinize Hurston’spersonal life in parallel with her works and political views to promote a better understanding ofher complex views.Early LifeHurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama. Although manybibliographies still place her birthplace as the all black town of Eatonville, Florida. Her familymoved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-blacktownships to become integrated in theUnited States, when she was three.1Hurston glorified Eatonville describing it as a place whereAfrican Americans could prosper and live independent of white society. She stated she alwaysfelt that Eatonville was “home” to her and sometimes claimed it as her birthplace.2Hurston’s mother, Lucy Potts Hurston, was a schoolteacher and her father, John Hurston,was a carpenter, tenant farmer and Baptist preacher. He later became the mayor of Eatonville.The dynamics of her family life as the daughter of a schoolteacher and preacher had a longlasting effect on Zora’s ideologies; however, the single most significant event of her childhood
was her mother’s death in 1904, when Zora was thirteen.Her father remarried to Matte Mog,e which was a minorscandal within itself, because it was rumored that he hadaffairs with Moge before Lucy Hurston died.3Zora and her siblings were sent to boarding schoolafter her father’s remarriage.Zora Hurston flourished inschool, but after a year, her father stopped paying tuitionand the school expelled her. Consequently, Zora and hersiblings were sent to live with relatives and friends. Afteryears of wandering from various relatives and friends’homes, in 1917, Zora Hurston left Eatonville to attend high school at Morgan Academy inBaltimore.4After graduating from Morgan Academy in 1918, she went on to attend Howard PrepSchool and Howard University. At Howard University, Hurston earned an Associates Degree.