In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Not Forgotten Authors Zora Neale Hurston and William Faulkner were as different stylistically as any two southern writers. The elegantandlyricalprose ofHurston andthe sometimes affected, sometimes convolutedwritings ofFaulkner could neverhaveflowedfrom the same ink orhave beenproducts ofa common keystroke. Yet the differentmeans by which both FaulknerandHurston achievedtheir artistic successes testify to the strength ofthe diversity in southern experience and perspective. So, too, do theirmostpersonalletters, which is why we havepaired these two authors, extraordinary in theirdissimilarity, togetherin this issue's Not Forgotten. The tone andcontentofWilliam Faulkner's note to Mary Frances Wiley, hisgoodfriend's wife, reflect a much differentaccount ofthe South, a much differentset ofconcerns,from Zora Neale Hurston's correspondence with W. E. B. Du Bois. Faulkner, revealedhere in his mannered, practicedglory, discusses a bit ofstrategic ambiguity in Go Down, Moses (andin theprocess removes some ofthatambiguity), while also rathercheerily finding the space in his short letter toflirt. Hurston's letterto Du Bois, on the other hand, is solemn anddirectanddemonstrates little ofthe luxury offrivolity. Elizabeth Robeson andNoelPolkguide us through these twopieces ofthe authors' moreprivate correspondence. We begin with Hurston's dignifiedappeal to die notforgotten. 98 Grave Matters BY ELIZABETH ROBESON The excerpts of this letter, published for the first time, are reprinted with the kind permission of the Estate ofZora Neale Hurston. The posthumous career of Zora Neale Hurston—and how it came about—is surely one of the remarkable events of American Uterary history. If the facts of Hurston's Ufe and death iUustrate the pathos of segregation, her celebrated rediscovery suggests die breadth of America's more recent cultural evolution. Hurston—arguably the most revered African American woman writer and on a short Ust of aU-time American favorites—died an indigent in a Miami-area welfare home in i960 after a Ufe ofhard-won accompUshment and sometimes bitter controversy. Winner of two Guggenheim feUowships and protégé of the pioneer anthropologist Franz Boas; first African American graduate of Barnard CoUege; performance artist and teacher; folklorist and ardent champion ofblack folk culture , Hurston energized the Harlem Renaissance with an electric personaUty discernible in her cry, "I am on fire about my people!" Hurston left behind four novels , two volumes of folklore, an autobiography, and a slew of short stories and articles—more than any previous black woman writer in America. "Ifshe did not achieve a commercial success," suggested die New York Times in her obituary, "that was the fault ofthe reading pubUc, not Miss Hurston." She was only in her sixties when she died. And as Alice Walker has pointed out, "Being broke made allthe difference."1 Had Hurston not Uved as a vagabond and suffered chronic poor health, she might weU have presided over her own revival. Instead , it was Walker who, having read Hurston's folklore coUections in 1970, set out to know aU she could about this remarkable writer. To her dismay she learned that Hurston's remains lay in an unmarked grave in aJim Crowed, snake-infested, south Florida diicket. With die help of Hurston's undertaker, Walker approximated the grave site in 1973 and placed a headstone there that stands today and reads, "Zora Neale Hurston, ? Genius of the South,' NoveUst, Folklorist, Anthropologist." Walker recounted that story for Ms. magazine in 197 5 and touched off a stillwidening commemoration of Hurston's Ufe and career that includes scholarly conferences and several dozen Web sites; an annual festival in her hometown of EatonviUe, Florida; images on T-shirts and postcards; and recent sales of more than one miUion copies of her best-known work, Their Eyes Were Watching God. But Hurston's ignominious end can never be overlooked and is, writes her biographer Robert E. Hemenway, "symboUc of the black writer's historical fate in America." Not Forgotten 99 Zora Neale Hurston. Courtesy ofMoorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University. Given the chance, Hurston might have brisded at the comment, insisting, as she frequendy did, "I am not tragicaUy colored." But in a letter dated 1 1 June 1945 and filed away in the papers of W. E. B. Du Bois, Hurston anticipates the truth of Hemenway's words. Aboard her rattletrap houseboat, "The Cruiser Sun Tan," docked in Daytona Beach, Hurston wrote to Du Bois a few...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 98-102
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.