The Search For Zora Neale Hurston’s Grave
We’ve moved on past most of the discussion on Their Eyes Were Watching God, since I reviewed the novel last week.
But I didn’t want to miss the chance to point out a this cool story around the discovery of Hurston’s grave site.
Zora Neale Hurston died on January 28, 1960. She was poor and living in a nursing home. Some friends and family raised $600 to buy her an unmarked grave, and she was buried in a segregated cemetery in St. Lucie County, Florida on February 7, 1960.
From that point, despite having written a brilliant novel in Their Eyes Were Watching God, and despite having been one of the early voices of the African-American woman in literature, Hurston was pretty much forgotten in the literary community.
In the 1970s, Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, took it upon herself to find Hurston’s lost, unmarked gravestone.
Walker said, “We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. If they do, it is our duty as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children. If necessary, bone by bone.”
Walker wrote a story about her search for Zora’s grave called “Looking for Zora.” She describes walking through the overgrown cemetery with a funeral home employee named Rosalee as they searched for where Zora might be buried.
“‘Zora!’ I yell, as loud as I can, ‘are you out there?'”
Rosalee: “If she is, I sho hope she don’t answer you. If she do, I’m gone.”
“‘Zora!’ I call again. ‘I’m here. Are you?'”
“If she is,” grumbles Rosalee, “I hope she’ll keep it to herself.”
“‘Zora!’ Then I start fussing with her. ‘I hope you don’t think I’m going to stand out here all day, with these snakes watching me and these ants having a field day. In fact, I’m going to call you just one or two more times… Zora!’ And my foot sinks into a hole. I look down. I am standing in a sunken rectangle that is about six feet long and about three or four feet wide.”
From there, Walker determined that she had found Hurston’s grave and proceeded to buy her a worthy gravestone.
What a cool story. You can read the whole thing here.
Thanks to people like Alice Walker, great writers like Hurston don’t get lost in the past.
(Image: Palm Beach Post)