Chronology of Hurston's Life

1859   Birth of Joseph E. Clark, a founding father of Eatonville, Florida
1861 January Hurston’s father, John Cornelius Hurston II is born in slavery in Alabama in January (d. 1918).
1865 December Richard and Sarah Potts (d. 1926) give birth to Hurston’s mother, Lucy Potts Hurston in Notasulga, Macon County, Alabama. 
1882 April 7 Lewis Lawrence gives land for the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church, in Eatonville.  On alternate Sundays, the Baptists hold services.
  February 2 Lucy (Lula) Potts and John Hurston II are married in Beulah Baptist Church, Notasulga, Alabama.
1887 August 18 Twenty–seven African–American men incorporate Eatonville, Florida.  It is today the oldest incorporated African–American town in the U.S.
1889   Founding of the Robert Hungerford Normal and Industrial School, based on the principles of education espoused by Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute.
    Founding of Macedonia Baptist Church on Eaton Street.  Second pastor is John Hurston.
1891 January 15 Zora Lee Hurston is born in Notasulga.  Named Zora, by her mother’s friend, Mrs. Neale, who also gives Hurston her middle name. 
1892   John Hurston journeys to Eatonville, Florida.  Becomes minister at the Zion Hope Baptist Church in Sanford, Florida.  His family joins him later.
1897   John Hurston is elected mayor of Eatonville. /P>
1897?–1904?   Hurston and her siblings attend the Hungerford School in Eatonville, founded by Russell and Mary Calhoun, students of Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
1902   John Hurston becomes pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church.
1904 September 18 Lucy Potts Hurston dies. 
  October Moves to Jacksonville to  attend her sister Sarah’s school.
1905   John Hurston marries Mattie Moge, age 20. 
1905–12   Hurston fights with her step–mother and feels she can never return home again.  Wanders from family member to family member.
1912–16   John Hurston is re–elected mayor of Eatonville and serves two terms.
1912   Lives with her brother, Dr. Robert Hurston, in Jacksonville and with her other brother, Dick, in Sanford.
1914–1915   Lives with her brother John in Jacksonville. Moves to Memphis to work as a nanny for her brother, Robert’s children.
1916   Becomes maid for a Gilbert and Sullivan theatre troupe.  Has appendix operation in Baltimore, home of her sister Sara, and decides to stay.
1917   Works as a waitress in Baltimore and attends night school.
  September 17 Enrolls at Morgan Academy and earns money as a maid for a white trustee.
1918 August 10 John Hurston is hit by a train and dies.
    Graduates from Morgan Academy.
  Summer Moves to Washington D.C. Works as a waitress at the Cosmos Club and as a manicurist in a barber shop.
  September Enrolls in Howard University’s preparatory school.
1920   Receives an associate’s degree from Howard, majoring in English. Studies with Lorenzo Dow Turner and Dwight O.W. Holmes.
    Joins Zeta Phi Beta sorority.
    Meets Herbert Sheen, a student from Decatur, Illinois, whom she will later marry in 1927.
1921   Alain Locke and Montgomery Gregory invite Hurston to join Howard University’s literary club.
  May First short story, “John Redding Goes to Sea,” and poem, “O Night,” published in Stylus.
    Attends Georgia Douglas Johnson’s literary salon and meets many authors who will form the nucleus of the Harlem Renaissance, including Bruce Nugent, Jean Toomer, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marita Bonner, Alice Dunbar–Nelson, Jessie Fauset, and Angelina Grimké. 
1922   “Night,” “Journey’s End,” and “Passion” published in Negro World, the newspaper of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
1924   “Drenched in Light” published in Opportunity, the literary journal of the Urban League.  Corresponds with the editor, Charles S. Johnson.
1925 January Moves to163 West 131st Street, Harlem. 
  May “Black Death,” “Spunk,” and the play Color Struck are submitted to the Opportunity literary contest and win two second–place awards.  At the award ceremony, Hurston meets Langston Hughes and Countee Cullee white authors Carl Van Vechten, Fannie Hurst, and Annie Nathan Meyer. 
  Summer Lives at 1014 Rivington Street in Roselle, New Jersey, and 624 West 4th Street in Plainfield, New Jersey.
  September Enrolls at Barnard College.  Meyer, a founder of Barnard, and Barnard Dean Virginia G. Gildersleeve help Hurston get accepted at Barnard and awarded a scholarship.  Declares herself an English major, but also studies anthropology with Franz Boas, the father of modern anthropology, who is a professor at Columbia University. 
1926   “Muttsy” wins second prize in the Opportunity contest and is published in August. 
  Summer Works on the journal Fire!! with Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Bruce Nugent. 
    “The Eatonville Anthology” published in The Messenger.
  November “Sweat” and Color Struck published in Fire!!
1927   Awarded a $1,400 fellowship from Carter Woodson’s Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.  In February, uses grant money to gather folk material in Florida.
  May 19 Marries Herbert Sheen in St. Augustine.
    Lectures with Langston Hughes at Tuskegee Institute.
    Meets Charlotte Osgood Mason.
    Works on a biography of Cudjoe Lewis, the last survivor of the last slave ship to leave Africa.  The other names for this study are Kossula and Barracoon. 
  December 8 Signs a one–year contract with Mason to gather folklore.
  December 14 Goes to Mobile, Alabama, to interview Lewis.
    The First One published in Charles Johnson’s journal Ebony and Topaz.
1928   Breaks off her marriage to Sheen, who remains her friend throughout her life.
  March Boas encourages Hurston to gather folk materials from her native African–American culture, which is disappearing.  Travels to Polk County, Florida, and visits Mulberry, Pierce, and the turpentine camp at Loughman. 
  May Receives her B.A. degree from Barnard College.
    “How It Feels to be Colored Me” published.
  Summer Moves to New Orleans to do research on hoodoo and conjure.  Studies Marie Laveau, a hoodoo priestess
    Hurricane of 1928 blows through Lake Okeechobee, drowning 1,800 mostly undocumented migrant–workers when the lake overflows its mud dikes.
1929   Rents a house in Eau Gallie, Florida.
    In Miami, works on folklore material, which she entitles Negro Folk–Tales from the Gulf States, and scripts for the theater. 
  April Visits brother John in Jacksonville.
  October Travels to the Bahamas for  anthropology research.   Lives through a devastating Caribbean hurricane.
1930 January–February Travels to the Bahamas.  Writes “Dance Songs and Tales from the Bahamas,” published in Journal of American Folklore.
  March–June Collaborates with Langston Hughes on Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life, based on a folk tale, “The Bone of Contention,” which Hurston had collected. 
  June Returns to Eatonville to work on Act II of Mule Bone.
  October Files for Mule Bone copyright, after fight with Hughes.
1931 April Barracoon rejected by Harper and Covici–Friede.
  August Hires Wallace Thurman as Mule Bone collaborator.
    Works on The Great Day.
    “Hoodoo in America”  published in Journal of American Anthropology.
1932   The Great Day is performed for one day at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway.  Play gets good reviews, but no producer comes forward to take on the play’s $600 debt.  Forced to sign another contract with Mrs. Mason.
    Meets Rollins College President Hamilton Holt. Professors Edwin O. Grover and Robert Wunsch assist her in producing a theater production at Rollins.
1933   Mrs. Mason cuts off funding.
  January From Sun to Sun (a version of The Great Day)  produced at Rollins College in January and re–staged the next month.  Eatonville residents perform in the play, but blacks not allowed to view the play.  Special performances given for blacks in Eatonville and other Florida towns, including Bethune–Cookman College in Daytona Beach.
  August Wunsch sends “The Gilded Six–Bits” to Story magazine, which publishes it.
  July After reading “The Gilded Six–Bits,” publisher Bertram Lippincott writes to Hurston asking if she has written a novel.  She replies affirmatively, even though she hasn't.  Moves to Sanford, Florida, in July and writes Jonah’s Gourd Vine in nine weeks.
    Mary McLeod Bethune invites Hurston to start a school of drama at Bethune–Cookman College.
1934   Moves to Daytona Beach to work at Bethune–Cookman. 
  May Jonah’s Gourd Vine published by Lippincott.
    Receives grant from the Rosenwald Foundation.
1935   Has a passionate love affair with Percy Punter, a singer in The Great Day.
  June Collects folk music with Alan Lomax and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle for the Library of Congress.
  September Joins the Harlem unit of the Federal Theater Project, part of the Works Progress Administration.
  October Mules and Men published.
1936 March Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  April Travels to Kingston, Jamaica.
  August Writes Their Eyes Were Watching God in Haiti.
1937 April Guggenheim Fellowship is renewed.
  May Return to Haiti.
  September Their Eyes Were Watching God published.
1938   Joins the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA and contributes to The Florida Negro.
    Travels to South Carolina to do fieldwork on the “sanctified” church, with Jane Belo.
  July Records folk music in the Everglades.
  October Tell My Horse published.
1939 January–February Two performances of The Fire Dance produced in Orlando, under the auspices of the WPA.
  June Receives an honorary doctorate from Morgan State University.
  June 27 Marries Albert Price, III, of Jacksonville.
    Hired as a drama instructor at North Carolina College for Negroes.
  November Moses, Man of the Mountain published.
1940   Resigns her position at North Carolina College for Negroes.
    Returns to Beaufort, South Carolina with Jane Belo to study the “sanctified” church.
1941   Hired as a consultant at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles.
1942 April Lives in St. Augustine and travels around Florida gathering folk material.
    Teaches at Florida Normal in St. Augustine.
    Meets Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling.
    Dust Tracks on a Road  published.
1943   Buys her first home, the Wanago, a houseboat.
  February Dust Tracks on a Road, receives the $1,000 Anisfield–Wolf award for the best book in race relations.
  February 20 Featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.
  March Receives the Distinguished Alumni Award at Howard University.
  November 9 Divorces Albert Price.
1944 January 18 Marries James Howell Pitts of Cleveland.
  October 31 Divorces Pitts.
1945 September Mrs. Doctor rejected by Lippincott.
    Begins work on Herod the Great.
1946   Gets involved in New York politics, supporting Grant Reynolds.
1947 April Maxwell Perkins agrees to become Hurston’s editor at Scribner’s. 
  June Perkins dies.
  May 4 Travels to Honduras and stays until February 20, 1948.
1948 September Is charged with molesting a ten–year–old boy.
  October 11 Seraph on the Suwanee  published.
1949   Molestation charges are dropped. 
  July Begins a five–month cruise in the Bahamas on Fred Irvine’s boat.
    Works on The Lives of Barney Turk.
1950   “The Conscience of the Court” published in the Saturday Evening Post.
    Works as a maid in Miami.
    Assists in George Smathers’s Senate campaign against Claude Pepper
    “I Saw Negro Votes Peddled” published in American Legion Magazine.
1951   Returns to her home in Eau Gallie.
    Scribner’s rejects The Golden Bench of God.
    Asks Jean Parker Waterbury to be her literary agent
1952 October Pittsburgh Courier hires Hurston to write about the Ruby McCollum murder trial.           
1953   Continues working on her manuscript on Herod the Great
1954   Assists William Bradford Huie’s efforts in writing his book, Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail.
1955   Scribner’s rejects Herod the Great.
    Letter criticizing Brown vs. Board of Education  published in The Orlando Sentinel.
1956   Is evicted from her home in Eau Gallie.
    Works as a librarian at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach.
1957 May 10 Fired from her librarian position.
  December C.E. Bolen hires her to write a column for the Fort Pierce Chronicle.  Moves to Ft. Pierce.
1958   Substitute teaches at Lincoln Park Academy.
1959   Suffers a series of strokes and is forced to apply for welfare.
  October 29 Enters the St. Lucie County Welfare Home.
1960 January 28 Dies of hypertensive heart disease. Her friends donate money for her funeral on February 7. Buried in an unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Ft. Pierce.


Hemenway, Robert. Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984.

––––––Novels and Stories.Ed. Cheryl Wall. New York: Library of America, 1995.

Kaplan, Carla, editor. Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. New York: Doubleday, 2002.

Otey, Frank M. Eatonville, Florida: A Brief History of One of America’s First Freedmen’s Towns. Winter Park, FL: Four–G, 1989.