Zora Neale Hurston

I have not read her book but I saw the movie version, Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halley Barry and Michael Ely.  Made for TV and if I remember correctly it was on a couple of nights, maybe three nights. It was a good movie.   I hope you enjoy the bio on Ms. Zora Neale Hurston.  She lived a very interesting life that ended so sadly.

Love, light and blessings

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Anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston was a fixture of the Harlem Renaissance before writing her masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Synopsis

Born in Alabama on January 7, 1891, Zora Neale Hurston spent her early adulthood studying at various universities and collecting folklore from the South, the Caribbean and Latin America. She published her findings in Mules and Men. Hurston was a fixture of the Harlem Renaissance, rubbing shoulders with many of its famous writers. In 1937, she published her masterwork of fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston died in Florida in 1960.

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Early Life

Born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, writer Zora Neale Hurston created several acclaimed works of fiction, including the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. She was also an outstanding folklorist and anthropologist who worked to record the stories and tales of many cultures, including her own African-American heritage.

Hurston was the daughter of two former slaves. Her father, John Hurston, was a pastor, and he moved the family to Florida when Hurston was very young. Following the death of her mother, Lucy Ann (Potts) Hurston, in 1904, and her father’s subsequent remarriage, Hurston lived with an assortment of family members for the next few years.

To support herself and finance her efforts to get an education, Hurston worked a variety of jobs, including as a maid for an actress in a touring Gilbert and Sullivan group. In 1920, Hurston earned an associate degree from Howard University. She published one of her earliest works in the university’s newspaper. A few years later, she moved to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where she became a fixture in the area’s thriving art scene.

Writing Career

Living in Harlem in the 1920s, Hurston befriended the likes of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen, among several others. Her apartment, according to some accounts, was a popular spot for social gatherings. Around this time, Hurston experienced a few early literary successes, including placing in short-story and playwriting contests in Opportunity magazine.

Hurston also had serious academic interests. She landed a scholarship to Barnard College, where she pursued the subject of anthropology and studied with Franz Boas. In 1927, Hurston returned to Florida to collect African-American folk tales. She would later publish a collection of these stories, entitled Mules and Men (1935). Hurston also contributed articles to magazines, including the Journal of American Folklore.

Also in the mid-1930s, Hurston explored the fine arts through a number of different projects. She worked with Langston Hughes on a play called Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life—disputes over the work would eventually lead to a falling out between the two writers—and wrote several other plays, including The Great Day and From Sun to Sun.

Hurston released her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, in 1934. Two years later, she received a Guggenheim fellowship, which allowed her to work on what would become her most famous work: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). She wrote the novel while traveling in Haiti, where she also studied local voodoo practices.

That same year, Hurston spent time in Jamaica conducting anthropological research.

In 1942, Hurston published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. This personal work was well-received by critics, but her life and career soon began to falter. Hurston was charged with molesting a 10-year-old boy in 1948; despite being able to prove that she was out of the country at the time of the incident, she suffered greatly from this false accusation.

Death and Legacy

Despite all of her accomplishments, Hurston struggled financially and personally during her final decade. She kept writing, but she had difficulty getting her work published. Additionally, she experienced some backlash for her criticism of the 1955 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which called for the end of school segregation.

A few years later, Hurston had suffered several strokes and was living in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. The once-famous writer and folklorist died poor and alone on January 28, 1960, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.

More than a decade later, another great talent helped to revive interest in Hurston and her work: Alice Walker wrote about Hurston in the essay “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in Ms. magazine in 1975. Walker’s essay helped introduce Hurston to a new generation of readers, and encouraged publishers to print new editions of Hurston’s long-out-of-print novels and other writings. In addition to Walker, Hurston heavily influenced Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison, among other writers.

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Nikki Giovanni




                                                                          Writer, Poet, Activist and Educator

Niki-giovanniMY HOUSE

i only want to
be there to kiss 
you as you want 
to be kissed when 
you need to be 
kissed where i want
to kiss you cause 
its my house and 
i plan to live 
in it

i really need to
hug you when i 
want to hug you
as you like to 
hug me does this 
sound like a silly 
poem

i mean its my house
and i want to fry pork chops
and bake sweet potatoes
and call them yams
cause i run the kitchen
and i can stand the heat

i spent all winter in
carpet stores gathering 
patches so i could make
a quilt
does this really sound
like a silly poem

i mean i want to keep you
warm

and my windows might be dirty
but its my house
and if i can't see out sometimes
they can't see in either

english isn't a good language
to express emotion through
mostly i imagine because people
try to speak english instead
of trying to speak through it
i don't know maybe it is
a silly poem

i'm saying it's my house
and i'll make fudge and call
it love and touch my lips
to the chocolate warmth
and smile at old men and call
it revolution cause what's real
is really real
and i still like men in tight
pants cause everybody has some
thing to give and more
important need something to take

and this is my house and you make me 
happy
so this is your poem

Nikki Giovanni was born June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Yolande Cornelia, Sr. and Jones “Gus” Giovanni. She grew up in Lincoln Heights, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1960 began her studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, her grandfather’s alma mater. She graduated in 1967 with honors, receiving a B.A. in history. Afterward she went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

In 1969 Giovanni began teaching at Livingston College of Rutgers University, and since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has received nineteen honorary doctorates and other awards, including “Woman of the Year” awards from three different magazines as well as the key to several different cities.[citation needed] She is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star (PHA), and an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Giovanni taught the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho in a poetry class. She described him as “mean” and “menacing”, when she approached the department chair to have Cho taken out of her class, and said she was willing to resign rather than continue teaching him. She stated that, upon hearing of the shooting, she immediately suspected that Cho might be the shooter. On April 16, 2007, at the Virginia Tech Convocation commemorating the April 16 Virginia Tech massacre, Giovanni closed the ceremony with a chant poem, intoning:

We know we did nothing to deserve it. But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS. Neither do the invisible children walking the night awake to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory. Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water…We are Virginia Tech…We will prevail.[3]

On August 21, 2007, The Tennessean reported that Giovanni is returning to her alma mater as a distinguished visiting professor at Fisk University.

Writing

The civil rights and black power movements inspired her early poetry that was collected in Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967), Black Judgement (1968), and Re: Creation (1970). She has since written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. Her writing has been heavily inspired by African-American activists and artists.

Her book Love Poems (1997) was written in memory of Tupac Shakur and she has stated that she would “rather be with the thugs than the people who are complaining about them.”

Giovanni tours nationwide and frequently speaks out against hate-motivated violence.

At a 1999 Martin Luther King Day event, she recalled the 1998 murders of James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard: “What’s the difference between dragging a black man behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and beating a white boy to death in Wyoming because he’s gay?”

Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983) acknowledged black figures. Giovanni collected her essays in the 1988 volume Sacred Cows … and Other Edibles. Some of her more recent works include Acolytes, a collection of eighty new poems, and On My Journey Now. Acolytes is her first published volume since her 2003 Collected Poems. It tones down the militant, edgy conscience for which Giovanni is known and portrays her softer, more nostalgic side. The work is a celebration of love and recollection directed at friends and loved ones and it recalls memories of nature, theater, and the glories of children. However, Giovanni’s fiery persona still remains a constant undercurrent in Acolytes, as some of the most serious verse link her own life struggles (being a black woman and a cancer survivor) to the wider frame of African-American history and the continual fight for equality.

Giovanni’s collection, Bicycles: Love Poems (2009), is a companion work to her 1997 Love Poems. They touch on the deaths of both her mother and her sister, as well as the massacre on the Virginia Tech campus. Giovanni chose the title of the collection as a metaphor for love itself, “because love requires trust and balance.” The work portrays her life as it spins out of control and love, which she prescribes as the antidote. The poems come alive with her warmth and authenticity, a stark foil to the militant, edgy work that laid a path towards becoming one of the prominent voices of the black community.

In 2004, Giovanni was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards for her album The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. She also featured on the track “Ego Trip By Nikki Giovanni” on Blackalicious‘s 2000 album Nia. In November 2008, a song cycle of her poems, Sounds That Shatter the Staleness in Lives by Adam Hill, was premiered as part of the Soundscapes Chamber Music Series in Taos, New Mexico.She was commissioned by National Public Radio’s.

All Things Considered to create an inaugural poem for President Barack Obama. Giovanni read poetry at the Lincoln Memorial as a part of the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 2009.

Poetry collections
Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967)
Black Judgement (1968)
Re: Creation (1970)
My House (1972)
The Women and The Men (1975)
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978)
Woman (1978)
Those Who Ride The Night Winds (1983)
Knoxville, Tennessee (1994)
The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1996)
Love Poems (1997)
Blues: For All the Changes (1999)
Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems (2002)
The Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni (2003)
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (2003)
Acolytes (2007)
Bicycles: Love Poems (2009) (William Morrow)
Co-authored
A Dialogue with James Baldwin (1973)
Rosa with Bryan Collier (2005)
Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance with Laban Carrick (2009)
Children’s books
Spin a Soft Black Song (1971)
Ego-Tripping and Other Poems For Young People (1973)
Vacation Time: Poems for Children (1980)
The Genie in The Jar (1996)
The Sun Is So Quiet (1996)
The Girls in the Circle (Just for You!) (2004)
Poetry Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (2005) [advisory editor]