Blogs > Liberty and Power > Happy Birthday, Zora Neale Hurston

Jan 7, 2005 4:17 pm

Happy Birthday, Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was born on this day in 1891. Like her contemporaries, Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson, Hurston stands out as a proponent of individualism and liberty.

In addition to her pioneering work as a folklorist and anthropologist, she was a novelist of considerable talent. She grew up in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, where her father once served as mayor. Eatonville was the setting for Hurston’s most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). With much justification, Saturday Review ranked it with the works of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.

While Hurston never expressed a systematic political philosophy, her instincts were those of a libertarian. Her comments on the destructive role of the welfare state were prescient. In 1951, she called it the “the biggest weapon ever placed in [the] hands of those who sought power and votes” and charged that it was responsible for turning once independent citizens into pawns of the “Little White Father” in Washington.

Like Lane and Paterson, Hurston showed an affinity for anti-imperialism. Not surprisingly, she championed Robert A. Taft’s campaign for president in 1952. In her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), she declared “I do not mean to single out England as something strange and different in the world. We, too, have our marines in China. We, too, consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideals of a country of their own.”

Hurston was suspicious of anyone, from left or right, who judged individuals by category. “I found,” she wrote, “that I had no need of either class or race prejudice, those scourges of humanity. The solace of easy generalization was taken from me, but I received the richer gift of individualism.”

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David T. Beito - 1/8/2005

Quite interesting. Halle Barry is also producing the movie about Philippa Schuyler starring Alicia Keys.

Charles Johnson - 1/8/2005


Word is that there is a TV movie of Their Eyes Were Watching God made for ABC, featuring Halle Berry as Janie, which should be airing March 6:

Thought y'all might be interested.


Kenneth R Gregg - 1/7/2005

I just loved her use of language. Even now, although it's been some time since I read her, I can almost hear her words.

Just Ken

Robert L. Campbell - 1/7/2005

I've been an admirer of Their Eyes Were Watching God for quite a few years.

And I hope the picture comes back...

Robert Campbell

David T. Beito - 1/7/2005


Thanks. I really appreciate it.

I still don't know why someone hasn't done a movie of that book. I am really struck by the parallels between her, Lane, Paterson, and even Rand not only in their rejection of collectivism but in their personal lives

I only wish the system wasn't acting up. I had a great picture of her posted on the blog which now has disappeared.



Jeanine Ring - 1/7/2005

Thank you, Msr. Beito.

I had never thought I would see the day when a libertarian praised Zora Neale Hurston in the flower of good faith. I read _Their Eyes Were Watching God_ long ago, and it is truly the story of a woman in collectivist times seeking a society and company that will permit her her individuality.

Again, thank you. You bring a warm light to my morning.


Jeanie Ring