African American Women Filmmakers
Zora Neale Hurston
(January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960)
Better known for her work as a novelist, Zora Neale Hurston could be, according to an essay by academic Gloria Gibson, the first African-American woman filmmaker. The film footage, which includes Children’s Games (1928), Logging (1928), and Baptism (1929), appears to be from her work as a student of anthropology under the guidance of famed anthropologist, professor, and mentor, Dr. Franz Boas of Columbia University. (Wikipedia)
A graduate of Barnard College (B.A. in anthropology in 1928) and a Guggenheim fellow, Hurston traveled back to a South similar to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida (one of the first all-black towns to be incorporated in the United States) to capture a variety of short takes of African-American life. Ethnographic in nature, the films reflect a focus of folklorists of that time period who believed that “…cultural performance and beliefs must be expeditiously collected and documented because they would soon be gone forever” (Gloria Gibson).
Hurston authored four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
In addition to new editions of her work being published after a revival of interest in her in 1975, her manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives.
During a period of financial and medical difficulties, Hurston was forced to enter St. Lucie County Welfare Home, where she suffered a stroke. She died of hypertensive heart disease on January 28, 1960, and was buried at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce, Florida. Sadly, her remains were in an unmarked grave until 1973 when novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the general area where Hurston had been buried and decided to mark it as hers. (Wikipedia)
Zora Neale Hurston
Shining Star of “Women of Strength.”