Zora's Roots

Zora's Roots

Tue, 03/15/2011 - 6:00pm

Pictured: Actress Pearl Ings as Hurston.

Credit: Barbara Whittier

Hurston was a larger-than-life figure who achieved fame but died in poverty, and left a rich legacy of literature and research that still intrigues and inspires readers all over the world.

This program examines the life of author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. The film follows Hurston, best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, to the subtropical paradise that shaped her childhood and her life’s work — the place to which she returned again and again over the seven decades of her life for research, inspiration and solace. Zora's Roots airs Tuesday, March 15 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on PBS World (Cable 524/DT 21.2).

She came from a tiny, all-black township called Eatonville in Orange County, Florida, and emerged in the Roaring Twenties as the most prolific woman writer of the Harlem Renaissance. Her name was Zora Neale Hurston, and she became an accomplished writer, folklorist and anthropologist. She walked the halls of Barnard College and the muddy streets of backwoods turpentine camps in pursuit of knowledge and of the rich folkways of her people. During her lifetime, Hurston worked as a playwright, wrote for Paramount Pictures and was a frequent contributor to The Saturday Evening Post and many major magazines.

In addition to her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God , which has been cited as one of the 100 greatest literary works of all time, Hurston wrote many nonfiction books. She was an anthropologist extraordinaire, who journeyed to the wilds of Honduras in search of an ancient lost city, lived among the natives in Haiti to study the African roots of voodoo and filmed Cudjoe Lewis, who, in 1928, was the last living slave who had originally arrived in America on a slave boat.

Hurston was a researcher and raconteur — and a natural observer and storyteller who honed her talents under the direction of pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas. She then returned to her home state, Florida, to glean stories, songs and customs with the learned eye of a social scientist.

Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple , called Hurston the “Genius of the South.” Hurston was a larger-than-life figure who achieved fame, lost it and died in poverty, but left a rich legacy of literature and research that still intrigues and inspires readers all over the world. ZORA’S ROOTS tells her story.

Throughout March, WXXI-TV and Radio is proud to offer special programming in honor of National Women’s History Month. These programs highlight the historical contributions women have made as well as the ongoing situations of women around the globe.

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