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From the Director, January 2024

From the Director, January 2024

When Alice Walker published her story “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” for Ms. Magazine in 1975, the author we currently consider to be a prominent voice of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the most brilliant authors in Black literature was all but forgotten. Walker describes the day she first walked into the Eatonville town hall in the 1960s and asked a woman sitting at a desk what she knew about Hurston. The woman told Walker that Hurston was her aunt, but nobody in the town talked about her much. Walker asked if the local schools teach kids about Hurston’s books, and the response was a flat no. “I don’t think most people know anything about Zora Neale Hurston,” the young woman said.

Although today Hurston is world renowned as an author and anthropologist who documented Black folklore and life in the South, she died impoverished and alone in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home in Fort Pierce in 1960. Walker helped bring her work back into the public consciousness with her essay about her visit to Eatonville, and she is now celebrated and often referred to as the “Genius of the South.”

I think that makes it even more poignant that, more than 60 years after her death, we continue to honor her legacy and contributions today. We kick off January with a month of events that highlight Hurston and her work. In conjunction with the town of Eatonville’s ZORA! Festival, we’ll host a series of events at our Eatonville Branch and Orlando Public Library to help populate an entire month of appreciation for the author. You can see our schedule of events here, but pay special attention to the events taking place at Eatonville Branch on Friday, January 26, also known as Zora Festival Education Day. We’ll start the day with a Meet the Author event with children’s author Alicia D. Williams, whose title Jump at the Sun was inspired by Hurston’s life. Later that day, we’ll also host an artistic freestyle show that will pay homage to Eatonville’s history, followed by a viewing of the movie Their Eyes Were Watching God, based on Hurston’s book of the same name.

Hurston had been practically forgotten for nearly 30 years after her death, and I hate to think that her contribution to arts and literature could have been buried with her had it not been for Walker’s investigation into her life. It’s up to us – the library and the community – to make sure she’s never forgotten again. Happy birthday, Zora. We’re glad we can celebrate you.

Steve Powell Library Director/CEO Orange County Library System