Library of Congress > Collections with Manuscripts > Zora Neale Hurston Plays at the Library of Congress

1891 to 1924

  • 1891

    Born January 15, Notasulga, Alabama

  • 1892

    Family moves to Eatonville, Florida

  • 1897

    Father, John Hurston, elected mayor

  • 1904

    Mother, Lucy Potts, dies

  • 1905

    Father remarries

    Leaves home, living largely in Jacksonville, Florida

  • 1915

    Moves to Memphis, Tennessee

  • 1916

    Works as a maid for Gilbert and Sullivan troupe

  • 1917

    Works as a waitress in Baltimore, Maryland, and enters Morgan Academy

  • 1918

    Graduates from Morgan Academy

    Father dies

    Enters Howard University in Washington, D.C.

  • 1920

    Receives associate degree from Howard University

    Howard University

    Building and courtyard at Howard University. Theodor Horydczak, photographer. Circa 1920-circa 1950. Theodor Horydczak Collection. From the Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction#: LC-H814-T01-2189-001 DLC

  • 1921

    Publishes first short stories

Next: 1925 to 1929
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1925 to 1929

  • January 1925

    Moves to New York City

  • July 1925

    Registers play Meet the Mamma for copyright

    Wins Opportunity magazine contest for short story, "Spunk," and play, "Color Struck"

    Works for author Fannie Hurst

    Enters Barnard College on scholarship

    Fannie Hurst

    Portrait of Fannie Hurst. Carl Van Vechten, photographer. March 16, 1938. From the Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection.

  • 1926

    Studies with anthropologist Franz Boas at Columbia University

  • 1927

    Receives Carter Woodson Association fellowship

    Goes south to collect folklore

  • May 19, 1927

    Marries Herbert Sheen, St. Augustine, Florida

    Acquires patronage of Charlotte Osgood Mason

  • 1928

    January: Separates from Sheen

  • March 1928

    Moves to Polk County, Florida

  • May 1928

    Receives Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College

    Goes to New Orleans to collect hoodoo folklore

  • 1929

    Revises folklore manuscript in Florida

Next: 1930 to 1935
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1930 to 1935

  • 1930

    January-February: Does fieldwork in the Bahamas

    In New York City, New Jersey and the South

    Collaborates with Langston Hughes on their play Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life

    Langston Hughes posing with a small sculpture.

    Portrait of Langston Hughes. Gordon Parks, photographer. 1943. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection. From the Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction #: LC-USW3-033841-C DLC

  • October 1930

    Registers her revue, Cold Keener, and her own version of the Mule Bone story, De Turkey and de Law, a Comedy in Three Acts, for copyright

  • January 1931

    Mule-Bone, by Hurston and Hughes, registered for copyright

  • July 1931

    Registers four sketches, "Forty Yards," "Lawing and Jawing," "Poker!," and "Woofing," for copyright

    Attempts at various Broadway productions

  • 1932

    Brief New York productions of her play, The Great Day, are a critical success but financial failure.

  • 1933

    Revises The Great Day and produces it in Florida venues as From Sun to Sun

  • May 1934

    Novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine, published

  • 1935

    Lives and writes in Florida and New York

  • June 1935

    Registers three-act play, Spunk, for copyright

    Goes South with Alan Lomax and Mary Barnicle to collect folk music for the Library of Congress

    Joins Harlem unit of Federal Theater Project (WPA)

    Alan Lomax playing guitar.

    Alan Lomax — Authority on American folk-lore [between 1940 and 1945]. From the Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction #: LC-USZ62-121915

  • October 1935

    Publishes Mules and Men

Next: 1936 to 1941
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1936 to 1941

  • 1936

    Awarded Guggenheim fellowship, March

    Travels in Jamaica and Haiti

    Zora Neale Hurston

    Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston. Carl Van Vechten, photographer. April 3, 1938. From the Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction #: LC-USZ62-79898 DLC

  • September 1937

    Publishes Their Eyes Were Watching God, written in seven weeks the previous December

  • 1938

    Joins Federal Writers' Project (WPA), collecting Florida folklore

    Spring: Comes to Washington, D.C.

    Starts field work with anthropologist Jane Belo

  • October 1938

    Publishes Tell My Horse

    Zora Neale Hurston smoking a cigarette.

    Zora Neale Hurston smoking, Cross City turpentine camp, ca. 1939. Photograph by Stetson Kennedy, Stetson Kennedy Papers, reproduced with permission. Digital restoration by Ivy Bigbee.

  • 1939

    Travels to Orlando for a production, to Cincinnati for radio series, to Durham to teach at North Carolina College for Negroes

    Collects Florida folk songs for Library of Congress and WPA

    Brief marriage to Albert Price III, Jacksonville

    Meets with Paul Green and Carolina Players

  • November 1939

    Moses, Man of the Mountain published

  • November 1939

    Moses, Man of the Mountain published

  • 1940

    Goes to Beaufort, South Carolina, to work on a Jane Belo research project

    Returns to New York City

  • 1941

    Moves to Los Angeles and serves as consultant at Paramount Pictures

Next: 1942 to 1948
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1942 to 1948

  • 1942

    Lecture tours

    Moves to St. Augustine

    Collects Florida and Seminole folklore

    November: Publishes autobiography Dust Tracks On a Road

  • 1943

    Lives in Daytona Beach

    Autobiography receives Anisfield-Wolf award for best book in race relations and Howard University's Distinguished Alumni Award

    November: Divorce from Price final

  • 1944

    January: Marries James Howell Pitts of Cleveland,

    October: Divorces James Howell Pitts

    December:Collaborates in New York with Dorothy Waring on musical comedy script, Polk County, registered for copyright

  • 1945

    Plans for a trip to Honduras

    Return of stomach ailments

  • 1946

    Research trip on a shrimping boat

    In New York works to oppose congressional campaign of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

  • 1947

    Research and writing in Honduras

  • 1948

    Returning to New York, is falsely accused of molesting a young boy, suffering bad publicity in the Black press

    Seraph On the Suwanee published to good reviews

Next: 1949 to 1960
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1949 to 1960

  • 1949

    Legal case against her is dismissed

    Travels to the Bahamas

  • 1950

    Takes job briefly as a maid in Miami, Florida

    Lives in New York and then Belle Glade, Florida

  • 1951

    Publishes political articles and reviews books

  • 1952

    Writes journalism

    Experiences health problems

  • 1955

    Her long-researched book on Herod the Great is rejected

    Writes opposing Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision on segregation, resulting in unpopularity

  • 1956

    Works as librarian at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida

  • 1957

    Moves to Fort Pierce and publishes articles

  • 1958

    Substitute teaches at Lincoln Park Academy, a black school near Fort Pierce Health deteriorates

  • 1959

    Suffers strokes

    Applies for welfare

    Enters St. Lucie County Welfare Home, October

  • 1960

    Dies January 28

    Buried in Garden of Heavenly Rest in an unmarked grave (marked by Alice Walker, 1973)

    [Adapted from Carla Kaplan, ed., Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. New York: Doubleday, 2002]

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