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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.

hurstongrave

Beautiful.

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)

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I never knew this! You have to wonder if your life will ever be fascinating enough to warrant something this cool.

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    March 12, 2014
  2. Who published the Alice walker piece. Fascinating.

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    March 12, 2014
    • It was first published in Ms. Magazine in 1975. Then later in a book compilation of essays.

      Like

      March 12, 2014
  3. This is one of my favorite literary stories. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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    March 12, 2014
  4. deweydecimalsbutler #

    I’ve never read that actual account, but I knew about Walker’s search for her. What an honor!

    Like

    March 12, 2014
  5. beaglebum #

    Reblogged this on My life…Dogs…Cats…Movies…Books…TV… and commented:
    What a wonderful story.

    Like

    March 12, 2014
  6. I love the quote from Alice Walker about not letting geniuses slip into obscurity. Generations of readers & writers owe her so much for “re-discovering” the amazing Ms. Hurston!

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    March 12, 2014
  7. Love the story but still wondering – how did she know it was the Zora’s grave?

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    March 12, 2014
    • I’m not certain, but I assumed it was the only unmarked grave in the cemetery. I’m sure she goes into more detail.

      Like

      March 12, 2014
  8. Reblogged this on Without Words and commented:
    So uplifting. It’s a shame writers are not always recognized how they should be. It’s also comforting to see writers support one another.

    Like

    March 12, 2014
  9. 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.”

    Beautiful quote, it’s great that Alice Walker actually took the time to find a lost legend.

    Like

    March 12, 2014
  10. “I’ll hope she keeps it to herself” hahah I love the humor!

    It’s a great book. Studied it for my research seminar. I, too, adored the writing style. It’s the kind of book you want to read again and again.

    Like

    March 13, 2014

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