American Memory | The Zora Neale Hurston Plays
Zora Neale Hurston Chronology

[Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston].
Carl Van Vechten, photographer.
April 3, 1938.
Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress.
Reproduction #: LC-USZ62-79898 DLC
Born January 15, Notasulga, Alabama

Family moves to Eatonville, Florida

Father, John Hurston, elected mayor

Mother, Lucy Potts, dies

Father remarries
Leaves home, living largely in Jacksonville, Florida


Moves to Memphis, Tennessee

Works as a maid for Gilbert and Sullivan troupe

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


Graduates from Morgan Academy
Father dies
Enters Howard University in Washington, D.C.


Receives associate degree from Howard University

Howard University. Building and courtyard at Howard University.
Theodor Horydczak, photographer.
circa 1920-circa 1950.
Theodor Horydczak Collection.
Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress.
Reproduction#: LC-H814-T01-2189-001 DLC
Publishes first short stories

Moves to New York City, January
Registers play Meet the Mamma for copyright, July
Wins Opportunity magazine contest for short story, "Spunk," and play, "Color Struck"
Works for author Fannie Hurst
Enters Barnard College on scholarship

  [Portrait of Fannie Hurst].
Carl Van Vechten, photographer.
March 16, 1938.
Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection.
Library of Congress.

Studies with anthropologist Franz Boas at Columbia University

Receives Carter Woodson Association fellowship
Goes south to collect folklore
Marries Herbert Sheen, May 19, St. Augustine, Florida
Acquires patronage of Charlotte Osgood Mason


Separates from Sheen, January
Moves to Polk County, Florida, March
Receives Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College, May
Goes to New Orleans to collect hoodoo folklore


Revises folklore manuscript in Florida

Does fieldwork in the Bahamas, January-February
In New York City, New Jersey and the South
Collaborates with Langston Hughes on their play Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life
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, October.

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

Mule-Bone, by Hurston and Hughes, registered for copyright, January
Registers four sketches, "Forty Yards," "Lawing and Jawing," "Poker!," and "Woofing," for copyright, July
Attempts at various Broadway productions

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

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

Novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine, published, May

  Alan Lomax--Authority on American folk-lore ...
[between 1940 and 1945].
Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress.
Reproduction #: LC-USZ62-121915

Lives and writes in Florida and New York
Registers three-act play, Spunk, for copyright, June
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)
Publishes Mules and Men, October

Awarded Guggenheim fellowship, March
Travels in Jamaica and Haiti


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

Joins Federal Writers' Project (WPA), collecting Florida folklore
Comes to Washington, D.C. in the spring
Starts field work with anthropologist Jane Belo
Publishes Tell My Horse, October

  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.

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
Moses, Man of the Mountain published, November

Goes to Beaufort, South Carolina, to work on a Jane Belo research project
Returns to New York City

Moves to Los Angeles and serves as consultant at Paramount Pictures

Lecture tours
Moves to St. Augustine
Collects Florida and Seminole folklore
Publishes autobiography Dust Tracks On a Road, November


Lives in Daytona Beach
Autobiography receives Anisfield-Wolf award for best book in race relations and Howard University's Distinguished Alumni Award
Divorce from Price final, November

Marries James Howell Pitts of Cleveland, January, and divorces, October Collaborates in New York with Dorothy Waring on musical comedy script, Polk County, registered for copyright, December


Plans for a trip to Honduras
Return of stomach ailments

Research trip on a shrimping boat
In New York works to oppose congressional campaign of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.


Research and writing in Honduras

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


Legal case against her is dismissed
Travels to the Bahamas

Takes job briefly as a maid in Miami, Florida
Lives in New York and then Belle Glade, Florida

Publishes political articles and reviews books

Writes journalism
Experiences health problems

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

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


Moves to Fort Pierce and publishes articles

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

Suffers strokes
Applies for welfare
Enters St. Lucie County Welfare Home, October

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]
American Memory | The Zora Neale Hurston Plays