Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade

Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade

Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade

Zora Neale Hurston's Final Decade


An intriguing investigation of the famous writer's turbulent final years

"'Courage' is the last word that Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her letters. And Hurston's courage is what Virginia Lynn Moylan documents in this moving and meticulously researched account of the end of Hurston's life."--Anna Lillios, author of Crossing the Creek

"Moylan's account of Hurston's last decade contributes to our understanding of a complex artist and individual--one who was pivotal in the creation of the first 'anthropologically correct' baby doll and yet opposed court-ordered desegregation."--M. Genevieve West, author of Zora Neale Hurston and American Literary Culture

"Hats off to Virginia Lynn Moylan for filling in missing pieces of Hurston's life story. This sympathetic biography of Hurston's last years is both a lively introduction to her life and a must-have book for Hurston fans.... Add[s] heft and richness to our understanding of all that Hurston was up against and just how much she achieved, in spite of the odds."--Carla Kaplan, author of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters

In 1948, false accusations of child molestation all but erased the reputation and career Zora Neale Hurston had worked for decades to build. Sensationalized in the profit-seeking press and relentlessly pursued by a prosecution more interested in a personal crusade than justice, the morals charge brought against her nearly drove her to suicide.

But she lived on. She lived on past her accuser's admission that he had fabricated his whole story. She lived on for another twelve years, during which time she participated in some of the most remarkable events, movements, and projects of the day.

Since her death, scholars and the public have rediscovered Hurston's work and conscientiously researched her biography. Nevertheless, the last decade of her life has remained relatively unexplored. Virginia Moylan fills in the details--investigating subjects as varied as Hurston's reporting on the trial of Ruby McCollum (a black woman convicted of murdering her white lover), her participation in designing an "anthropologically correct" black baby doll to combat stereotypes, her impassioned and radical biography of King Herod, and her controversial objections to court-ordered desegregation.

Virginia Lynn Moylan , educator and independent scholar, is a founding member of the Fort Pierce, Florida, Annual Zora Festival and a contributing author to The Inside Light: New Critical Essays on Zora Neale Hurston.


Alice Walker once declared that “no one could wish for a more advantageous heritage than that bequeathed to the black writer in the South.” a stronger case for a black southern writer who took advantage of this blessing could not be made than for that of writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, who framed the lives of southern black folk with all of their juices, drama, creativity, wit, and humor intact. Her intimate knowledge of religion, black southern folklore, and verbal art imbued her writings with a spice and humor that set her apart from her contemporaries and inspired Walker to proclaim her a “Genius of the South” (a tribute that she had engraved on Hurston’s tombstone). Her determination to faithfully chronicle the culturally rich lives of working- and lower-class blacks, whom she referred to as the “the Negro farthest down,” has given us a treasure trove of early twentieth-century black southern folklore that would have otherwise been lost.

My fascination with Hurston and her work began in 1992, when I experienced a kind of “baptism by fire” as a beginning teacher in Pahokee—a small, impoverished city on the banks of Lake Okeechobee at the northern tip of the Florida Glades. Faced with a population of predominately poor black students suffering from low self-esteem and academic failure, I decided that the standard methods of teaching, which had failed them year after year, would simply not do. With that failure in mind, I decided to teach writing with a generous helping of life lessons through the production of a cultural magazine titled . . .

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