Zora Neale Hurston's Fort Pierce Home
From 1958 through 1959, Zora Neale Hurston lived the last two years of her life at this house. It was provided by a family friend, Dr. Clem C. Benton, who allowed her to live at this house for free. During her time in Fort Pierce, she taught at the nearby school. The place serves as a National Historic Landmark for Hurston, in recognition of her as one of the best 20th century American authors and anthropologists.
Backstory and Context
Early Life and Inspiration
Being the fifth of eight children, Zora Neale Hurston claimed to have been born in Eatonville, Florida in 1901, however, records indicate that she was born in her family’s hometown in Notalsuga, Alabama, on January 7th, 1891. Hurston's family moved to Eatonville in 1892; it was a "self-governed, all-African American town north of Orlando, Florida"; it was a community free from social prejudice and discrimination (City of Fort Pierce).
According to the New York Times, her life in Eatonville served as inspiration for her writings. For example, part of her famous novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, takes place in Eatonville. In the novel, the main protagonist, Janie Mae Crawford, is considered to have many parallels to Hurston’s life. An example of this is the local community corner store owned by Joe Clarke; where in her early years, Hurston would roam around the area. Similarly, Clarke’s store became the cornerstone in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.
Life in Fort Pierce, Florida
According to Trail Marker #3 by the City of Fort Pierce, after seeing and recognizing Hurston talent, Dr. Clem C. Benton, a physician, community leader, and a family friend allowed her to live rent free in this house. As stated in the Train Marker, Hurston’s “home was a place where she could work quietly, thoughtfully, and without interruption”, though she also enjoyed visitors and company from her dog, Spot. According to Trail Marker #2, Hurston taught English at Lincoln Park Academy, a local high school located right across the street from her home. “Ironically, because she could not get a state certificate quickly enough, this nationally-renowned writer was not hired to teach on a permanent basis" (Trail Marker #2, City of Fort Pierce). She spent the last 2 years of her life writing articles for The Chronicle newspaper and writing “a comprehensive biography and history of King Herod”, which she tried so hard to complete (Trail Marker #3, City of Fort Pierce).
After Her Death
At the end of her career of over 30 years, Hurston did not gain the credit she deserved until after her death when her plays and novels were being recognized (History Engine). Hurston died in Fort Pierce, Florida after suffering from a stroke when she was 69 on January 28th, 1960. According to the City of Fort Pierce, her grave at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce remained unmarked until 1973 when author Alice Walker sought Hurston’s grave.
Stated by the City of Fort Pierce, "the Zora Neale Hurston House has been maintained privately by the Benton Family." and her home now is in the "National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service in 1991."
Today, many celebrate Hurston’s life, including her hometown Eatonville, where annual festivals are held and is home of the “Zora Neale Hurston Museum of Fine Arts, named in her honor” and in Fort Pierce, the city celebrates Hurston annually in an event known as Zora Fest (City of Fort Pierce).
Graham, Adam H. “Forgotten Florida, Through a Writer's Eyes.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/travel/04culture.html.
-The use of this source is to use the information about her past in Eatonville, FL in the background. Hurston claimed to be born in Eatonville in 1901, however it was determined that she was born in Notasulga, Ala., on January 7, 1891. Her time in Eatonville served as inspiration for her writing. For example, part of her famous novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, takes place in Eatonville.
“Timeline of Zora Neale Hurston.” City of Fort Pierce, www.cityoffortpierce.com/412/Timeline-of-Zora-Neale-Hurston.
-This site provides a timeline on Neale’s life. In the site there is information about the city of Fort Pierce’s celebration of Zora, called the Zora Festival. It is a several-day event held at the end of April in honor of her life and legacy.
Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail Marker #2 - Lincoln Park Academy, City of Fort Pierce. Accessed February 27th 2020. https://cityoffortpierce.com/390/Trail-Marker-2.
-This site provides information about Zora's life in the city of Fort Pierce. The trail marks in the site "commemorates the life and times of a world-renown Harlem Renaissance author, anthropologist, storyteller and dramatist, primarily when she lived in Fort Pierce, during the final years of her life." I will use the information on trail number 2 because I will write about her time as a teacher at the local high school.
Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail Marker #3 - Zora Neale Hurston's Home, City of Fort Pierce. Accessed February 27th 2020. https://cityoffortpierce.com/391/Trail-Marker-3.
-This site is about the historical home of Zora, as well as how she obtained the house. Some information that I will obtain from the site include:Dr. Clem C. Benton allowing her to live there rent free and the house being "on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service in 1991".
Zora Neal Hurston's trials and tribulations through the Harlem Renaissance, THE HISTORY ENGINE. Accessed February 27th 2020. https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/4835.
-This resource is about Zora's trials and tribulations throughout the Harlem Renaissance. It was written based off of her time as a writer during the renaissance and goes on to show that she achieved fame during her lifetime but was soon publicly forgotten. However, she did not gain the credit she deserved until after her death when her plays and novels were being recognized.
City of Fort Pierce
Photo credit: Ebony Flake
Zora Neale Hurston, -1960. [Between 1935 and 1943?] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2004672085/>.