Ann Arbor’s Black History Month Essay Competition: Runner-up


“Zora Neale Hurston” 

By Allexxis Youngs (second place winner)

Washtenaw International High School

The Harlem Renaissance was a time period through 1920 and 1930 where African

Americans started gaining more self-consciousness. It was a literary and intellectual movement that transformed the lives of Africans Americans across the country. Tons of black writers were charged with making an identity for African Americans.

Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most popular female writers in this time period, with her being an active member she inspired other African American women to make a name for themselves. She grew up in Eatonville, Florida, which was the one of the first towns in America to be established for Black people.

Later,Hurston wrote many fictional stories, one being Their Eyes were Watching God. It follows a woman named Janie who goes through her struggle of men, love, being black, and so much more. This helped society see a vivid representation of how African American woman go through their daily lives. By bringing to light a story that had not been talked about much in society, this was inspirational, and it persuaded society to listen to stories like Janie’s. This showed society the struggle of African Americans through their daily lives and how it affects them because it is truly uplifting to give a story and voice to someone who does not have one.

Not only is it individually inspiring, it is also very uplifting for that entire culture, since they now have a depiction for their culture.

In addition, Hurston was friends with many other African American leaders, like W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, and so many more during that time period.

Together they worked for increased rights for African Americans and acceptance for them. The stories she wrote were fictional stories that showed how African Americans lived and that helped African Americans and others come to a realization of what it means to be African American in America. They could see this through her stories and portrayal of everyday life for them. The stories Hurston wrote helped with starting the self-consciousness movement within the black community. They started gaining more of a perspective on who they really were and how they fit into society.

Hurston showed society the truth through her stories and plays that depicted African Americans. The truth being the actual African American lives and the struggles they faced. She did not just write a story that showed the problems they faced, she displayed it with clarity and honesty.

By having many similar ideas, topics, life events, and so much more, she challenged society to see the bigger picture. This advanced African Americans in society by having a depiction of themselves that blacks can see but also everyone else, letting them get a glimpse of what someone else has to go through. Zora Neale Hurston still continues to influence people today with her books and plays. Growing up as a black kid in America, there are not many stories that people tell about you or your community that uplift you or show the struggle of your daily life except when talking about slavery.

But the first time I read Their Eyes were Watching God, I instantly connected with it. Even though the story was set during the period of segregation, I still experience the hate, racism, sexism, and prejudice that Janie experienced. However, I also felt liberated and empowered that my story was being read by society to help them understand the daily life of a black person in America.


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