Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was the most successful, most published Black woman writer of the first half of the 20th century. Over a career that spanned three decades, she published seven books in her lifetime—a revolutionary feat for a Black woman working during a time of severe sexism and racial discrimination. Hurston was the self-proclaimed "queen" of the Harlem Renaissance, and she has influenced multiple generations of writers, including Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, Zadie Smith and Tayari Jones, among many others.
Zora Neale Hurston knew how to make an entrance. On May 1, 1925, at a literary awards dinner sponsored by Opportunity magazine, the earthy Harlem newcomer turned heads and raised eyebrows as she claimed four awards: a second-place fiction prize for her short story “Spunk,” a second-place award in drama for her play Color Struck, and two honorable mentions.