Now, a Literary Moment...
In the 1920's and 30's, Zora Neale Hurston was celebrated as an original and daring of the Harlem Renaissance. But within a decade, her work was eclipsed by new literary trends and Hurston was forced to pawn her typewriter just to survive.
Scholar Carla Kaplan.
Carla Kaplan: So that when she died in 1960, everything was out of print. And in fact, her personal effects were burned in a bonfire behind the house. And if a local black deputy sheriff, at that time a young man named Pat Duvall, hadn't been driving by and realized whose house it was, we would have almost nothing left of hers from that period of her life. He put the fire out and saved quite a bit of material, which is all now in her papers at the University of Gainesville, but we actually almost lost everything, all of her manuscripts, everything she had saved, all the papers she had saved, the letters written to her by people like Langston Hughes, and DuBois and Dorothy West and Countee Cullen, and we almost lost all of that because it was all taken out behind her house and set on fire.
Fortunately for us Hurston's work was soon rediscovered and reprinted and the author of such powerful novels as Their Eyes Were Watching God returned to her rightful place among 20th century literary greats.
This Literary Moment was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.
[ Audio ]