ZORA NEALE HURSTON, although she gave her birthdate as 1901 or 1903, was probably born on January 7, 1891, in America's first all-black incorporated town, Eatonville, Florida.Her father, John Hurston, was a sharecropper who became a carpenter, preacher, and three-term mayor of Eatonville.Her mother, Lucy Hurston, died in 1904. As a child, she recounts in her autobiography, she listened to the "lying sessions" of the men on a storefront porch "straining against each other in telling folks tales. God, Devil, Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Sis Cat, Brer Bear, Lion, Tiger, Buzzard and all the wood folk walked and talked like natural men." The richness and singularity of black folklore would permeate all her work.
In her teens, five years after her mother's death, Hurston left Eatonville to work as a maid and wardrobe girl for a traveling Gilbert and Sullivan troupe. Some biographers have conjectured that she was married during this period, but no evidence supports or disproves it. In 1917, her travels brought her to Baltimore, where she enrolled at the Morgan College Preparatory School.She graduated in 1918 and entered Howard University, from which she received an Associates Degree in 1920. The following year, her first published story, " John Redding Goes to Sea," appeared in the college literary magazine The Stylus. "Drenched in Light" ( 1924) and "Spunk" ( 1925) were published in Opportunity, the magazine edited by Charles S. Johnson, who subsequently urged Hurston to come to New York.She arrived, as she tells it, with "$1.50, no job, no friends, and a lot of hope."
Hurston also had brilliance and scholarly ambitions, however. In 1925, she won a scholarship to Barnard College to study with the anthropologist Franz Boas, and two years later, she undertook anthropological field research in Alabama, Louisiana, the West Indies, and Eatonville, Florida.She received her B.A. in 1928. She meanwhile continued to write: a play, Great Day, was published in 1927, followed in 1930 by "Dance Songs and Tales from the Bahamas" and the third act of Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts, a play written in collaboration with Langston Hughes; "Hoodoo in America" was published in 1931.
In New York City, at the center of the Harlem Renaissance in 1926, Hurston published "Muttsy" and, with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman, founded the avant-garde literary magazine Fire!! "The Gilded Six-Bits" appeared in 1933