Sometimes: “Just An Image Says It All™”


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Someone YOU Should Know: Artist Stephen Wiltshire….The Human Camera.


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Stephen Wiltshire MBE – Biography

 

Stephen Wiltshire is an artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes. He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly. He was awarded an MBE for services to the art world in 2006. He studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College. His work is popular all over the world, and is held in a number of important collections.

 

Stephen was born in London, United Kingdom to West Indian parents on 24th April, 1974. As a child he was mute, and did not relate to other people. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language and lived entirely in his own world.

 

At the age of five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London, where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became apparent he communicated with the world through the language of drawing; first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. These drawings show a masterful perspective, a whimsical line, and reveal a natural innate artistry.

 

 

Early Years

Stephen Wiltshire was born on April 24, 1974 in London, England to parents of West Indian heritage. His father, Colvin was a native of Barbados, and his mother, Geneva, is a native of St. Lucia. As a child Stephen experienced delays in his development. When Stephen was about three years old, he was diagnosed as autistic. When Stephen was about five, he was enrolled at Queensmill School in West London where the teaching staff first noticed his interest in drawing.

 

First Words

The instructors at Queensmill School encouraged him to speak by temporarily taking away his art supplies so that he would be forced to ask for them. Stephen responded by making sounds and eventually uttered his first word – “paper.” He learned to speak fully at the age of nine. His early illustrations depicted animals and cars; he is still extremely interested in american cars and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them. When he was about seven, Stephen became fascinated with sketching landmark London buildings. After being shown a book of photos depicting the devastation wrought by earthquakes, he began to create detailed architectural drawings of imaginary

 

 

Career Start

One of Stephen’s teachers took a particular interest in him, who later accompanied his young student on drawing excursions and entered his work in children’s art competitions, many of which garnered Stephen awards. The local press became increasingly suspicious as to how a young child could produce such masterful drawings. The media interest soon turned nationwide and the 7 year old Stephen Wiltshire made his first steps to launch his lifelong career. The same year he sold his first work and by the time he turned 8, he received his first commission from late Prime Minister Edward Heath to create a drawing of Salisbury Cathedral.
At about age 10 Stephen embarked on an ambitious project called “London Alphabet,” a group of pictures depicting landmark structures in London, listed in alphabetical sequence – from Albert Hall, a famed performance venue, to the London Zoo.

 

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Drawings

In February 1987 Stephen appeared in The Foolish Wise Ones. (The show also featured savants with musical and mathematical talents.) During his segment Hugh Casson, a former president of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, referred to him as “possibly the best child artist in Britain.”
Casson introduced Stephen to Margaret Hewson, a literary agent who helped Stephen field incoming book deals and soon became a trusted mentor. She helped Stephen publish his first book, Drawings (1987), a volume of his early sketches that featured a preface by Casson. Hewson, known for her careful stewardship of her clients’ financial interests, made sure a trust was established in Stephen’s name so that his fees and royalties were used wisely. (Hewson’s obituary, published in the London Daily Telegraph [February 9, 2002], lauded her “tireless promotion of his interests” and stated that despite having several other high-profile clients, she “was perhaps best known for championing… Stephen Wiltshire.”)

 

 

Cities

Hewson arranged Stephen’s first trip abroad, to New York City, where he sketched such legendary skyscrapers as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as part of a feature being prepared by the London-based International Television News. (He is quoted in the London Times article as saying, “I’m going to live in New York [some day]. I’ve designed my penthouse on Park Avenue.”) While in New York Stephen met Oliver Sacks.
Sacks was fascinated by the young artist, and the two struck up a long friendship; Sacks would ultimately write extensively about Stephen. The resulting illustrations from his visit – along with sketches of sites in the London Docklands, Paris, and Edinburgh – formed the basis for his second book, Cities (1989), which also included some drawings of purely imaginary metropolises.

 

 

College Years

With Hewson’s help, Stephen enrolled in a three-year degree program (followed by a one-year postgraduate course) at the prestigious City and Guilds of London Art School, where he studied drawing and painting. He often commuted by himself on the London underground system. Stephen Wiltshire later successfully postgraduated in Painting and Drawing as well as Printmaking at his degree show in 1998.

 

 

Floating Cities

At about this time Stephen embarked on a drawing tour of Venice, Amsterdam, Leningrad, and Moscow, attracting crowds wherever he stopped to draw. He was accompanied part of the time by Sacks, who was conducting research for a new book of case histories. (The resulting volume, An Anthropologist on Mars, published in 1995, brought Stephen Wiltshire to the attention of an even wider audience.) His third book, Floating Cities (1991), contains the elaborate drawings he made on the tour, along with a foreword by Sacks, who wrote, “Floating Cities represents sixteen-year-old Stephen’s artistic response to a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. The architectural refinement of a bygone Venetian Republic is juxtaposed to the solid merchant spirit of the Northern Renaissance as seen in Amsterdam. The barbaric vitality and energy of Moscow is set against that epitome of elegance, Leningrad – so often called ‘the Venice of the North.’ These drawings testify to an assured draughtsmanship and an ability to convey complex perspective with consummate ease. But more importantly, they reveal his mysterious creative ability to capture the sensibility of a building and that which determines its character and its voice. It is this genius which sets him apart and confers upon him the status of artist. For a child who was once locked within the prison house of his own private world, unable to speak, incapable of responding to others, this thrilling development of language, laughter and art is a miracle.”

 

 

Bestseller

In a review of Floating Cities for the San Francisco Chronicle (February 16, 1992), Kenneth Baker observed: “The accuracy of proportion and perspective in Stephen Wiltshire’s ink drawings – not to mention their detail – is amazing. For all their busyness, Stephen Wiltshire’s drawings are not snarled with obsessive rhythms. He obviously takes pleasure in what he can see and record, and his technique, though consistent, is admirably adapted to specific subjects… Whatever barriers to conventional life Wiltshire’s condition [has] put in his path, his eye and hand are enviably open channels.” David Gritten wrote for the Los Angeles Times (February 5, 1992), “[The book] illustrates Stephen Wiltshire’s ability to capture not only a building’s detail; he has an innate sense of perspective and also can convey the mood a building evokes. Thus his Kremlin Palace in Moscow looks forbidding and imposing; his St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square with its multicolored cluster of onion domes, seems to spring from a fantasy.” Floating Cities reached the top spot on the (London) Sunday Times nonfiction bestseller list.

 

 

American Dream

In 1992 Stephen accepted the invitation of a Tokyo-based television company to tour Japan and make drawings of various landmark structures, including the Tokyo metropolitan government building, in Shinjuku, and the Ginza shopping district. He then traveled to America once again, a trip that resulted in the book American Dream (1993), which featured cityscapes of Chicago, San Francisco, and New York, as well as the desert landscape of Arizona. Mary Ambrose wrote for the Montreal Gazette (July 31, 1993), “His paintings of the Arizona desert [establish] him as more than a one-trick pony, and although the coloring is a bit rough, his strong natural sense of composition keeps it together.” Stephen also included depictions of friends and acquaintances, and some observers took the presence of human figures in his work as a sign that he was developing socially.

Musical Talent

While his teachers had long known that Stephen Wiltshire liked to sing, the extent of his musical talent was not immediately apparent. Hewson told Anne Barrowclough for the London Daily Mail (September 14, 1993) that she discovered the artist’s additional skill while on the trip to Russia: “When we were in Moscow we would throw our own private concerts, usually opera, in our hotel room. One evening Stephen stood on a chair and sang Carmen from memory. He had picked it up from the television and remembered it almost perfectly.” He soon began studying with the music teacher Evelyn Preston, who identified Stephen as having perfect pitch – the rare ability to identify the pitch of an isolated musical note.
Additionally, while people with autism often do not understand or recognize human emotions, Stephen seemed able to convey the story of the music he was hearing and interpret its sentiments – an ability that fascinated psychologists. The medical community also found Stephen’s case interesting because savants rarely exhibit simultaneous skills in more than one field of learning. Linda Pring, a cognitive neuropsychologist at Goldsmith’s College, in London, spent a summer evaluating Stephen in an effort to discover a relationship between his dual talents. Pring told Nigel Hawkes for the London Times (September 13, 1993), “None of our other savants has more than one talent. In the whole of the scientific literature I have found only one previous example.”

Exhibition Record

Meanwhile, Stephen’s artwork was being exhibited frequently in venues all over the world.
In 2001 he appeared in another BBC documentary, Fragments of Genius, for which he was filmed flying over London aboard a helicopter and subsequently completing a detailed and perfectly scaled aerial illustration of a four-square-mile area within three hours; his drawing included 12 historic landmarks and 200 other structures.
In late 2003 the Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, England, held the first major retrospective of Wiltshire’s works, spanning a period of 20 years; more than 40,000 visitors attended the exhibit, shattering the gallery’s attendance records. view current exhibitions

Panoramas

Stephen took on his largest project to date in May 2005, when he returned to Tokyo to make a panoramic drawing – the largest of his career – of the city. Two months later he drew a similarly detailed picture of Rome, including the Vatican and St. Peter’s Cathedral, entirely from memory.
In December, after a 20-minute helicopter ride, Stephen spent a week creating a 10-meter-long drawing of Hong Kong‘s Victoria Harbour and the surrounding urban scene. (He dedicated the work as a Christmas present to the city’s residents.) Since then he added Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem and London to his collection. The last drawing in the series was of his spiritual home, New York. Further trips followed to Syndey and Shanghai in 2010.

Cityscapes & People

Contrary to the popular misconception that Stephen is only interested in capturing architecture and classic american cars, he often draws portraits of celebrities and close friends in his private sketchbook. Stephen started creating caricatures of his teachers at primary school, and has since then produced many caricature ‘snap shots’ documenting amusing incidents encountered on his trips abroad as well.
Stephen Wiltshire’s passion for buildings, citiscapes and skylines continuously inspires him to revisit his favourite cities as well as discover new destinations while travelling the world. In a recent interview in New York he revealed that the most intriguing qualities of an exciting city must have ‘chaos and order at the same time, the avenues and squares, skyscrapers as well as traffic jams, the chaotic rush hour and people’.

 

 

MBE & London Gallery

In January 2006 it was announced that Stephen was being named by Queen Elizabeth II as a Member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his services to the art world. “It’s an absolute honour,” his sister, Annette, told Geoffrey Wansell for the London Daily Mail (January 3, 2006). “It brought tears to my mum’s eyes and to mine, because we’ve all worked so hard for Stephen.”
Later that year, with the encouragement of Annette and her husband, Zoltan, Stephen Wiltshire founded his own permanent art gallery in London’s Royal Opera Arcade, London’s oldest shopping arcade.
In 2011, Stephen received an Honorary Life Fellowship from the Society of Architectural Illustrators, presented by artist Ben Johnson.
The gallery recently celebrated its 5th year of opening and the search for Stephen’s second premises in New York continues today.

 

Many observers have noted that Stephen has an engaging personality and a strong sense of humor. He sometimes performs impromptu, but wickedly accurate imitations of such singers as Robbie Williams. He currently resides in Maida Vale, West London with his mother. He reportedly admits to a preference for blondes, most notably the actress Jennie Garth from the television series Beverly Hills 90210.

 

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Stephen Wiltshire: The Human Camera

 

Uploaded on May 5, 2006

Stephen Wiltshire has been called the “Human Camera.” In this short excerpt from the film Beautiful Minds: A Voyage into the Brain, Wiltshire takes a helicopter journey over Rome and then draws a panoramic view of what he saw, entirely from memory.

 

 

 

The Human Camera – Documentary

 

Published on Dec 20, 2013

Stephen Wiltshire is a 33-year-old autistic man with an extraordinary talent. He is one of less than 100 people in the world who is recognised as an autistic savant. Whereas some savants excel in mathematics or music, Stephen is an accomplished artist, and is capable of producing highly accurate drawings of buildings and cities after seeing them just once.

 

Although Stephen is today a quiet and confident young man, he endured a difficult childhood as family and teachers struggled to cope with his autism – a condition that was, at the time, very poorly understood and rarely diagnosed.

 

Cityscapes and buildings quickly became Stephen’s artistic focus, possibly because they represent the kind of stability, solidity and repetition that autistic people often crave. In a short space of time, Stephen became internationally renowned for his strikingly detailed and technically accurate drawings, and since his teenage years he has travelled the world sketching famous buildings and cities.

 

Now Stephen is about to face one of his greatest challenges yet. He has five days to draw a four-metre-long panorama of London based on a 15-minute helicopter ride above the capital. Can he accurately reproduce the skyline of his home city solely from memory?

 

 

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The Weekly Address: The President’s Budget Ensures Opportunity For All Hardworking Americans


 

By Jueseppi B.

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Weekly Address: The President’s Budget Ensures Opportunity for All Hardworking Americans

 

In this week’s address, the President highlighted the important differences between the budget he’s put forward — built on opportunity for all — and the budget House Republicans are advocating for, which stacks the deck against the middle class.

 

While the President is focused on building lasting economic security and ensuring that hardworking Americans have the opportunity to get ahead, Republicans are advancing the same old top-down approach of cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and slashing important investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development.

 

Weekly Address: The President’s Budget Ensures Opportunity for All Hard-Working Americans

April 05, 2014 | 3:03 | Public Domain

 

In this week’s address, President Obama highlights the important differences between the budget he’s put forward – built on opportunity for all – and the budget House Republicans are advocating for, which stacks the deck against the middle class.

 

 

 

VIDEO MENSAJE DE LA CASA BLANCA: El Presupuesto del Presidente –Expandiendo la oportunidad para todos

April 05, 2014 | 3:16 | Public Domain

 

En el mensaje de esta semana, la Directora del Consejo de Política Doméstica de la Casa Blanca Cecilia Muñoz habla sobre el presupuesto del Presidente que ampliará las oportunidades para todos, incluyendo a millones de familias hispanas.

 

 

 

 

While Marketplace Enrollment Ended, Medicaid Enrollment Continues

 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already provided coverage to millions of Americans. More than 7.1 million Americans signed up for coverage through the Marketplaces, 3 million additional young adults were covered under their parents’ insurance and millions more will have access through Medicaid. A new report shows that more people are gaining coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a result of the health law. The analysis, produced by the Health and Human Services Department shows enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP in February was at least 3 million people higher than it was, on average, between July and September. That does not include March, which saw an enormous spike in Marketplace enrollment and traffic to HealthCare.gov.

 

While this is great progress, states where governors or legislatures refuse to implement the Medicaid expansion provisions of the law will leave 5.7 million Americans uninsured. States that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and New York, have seen particularly dramatic declines in their uninsured populations. Just take Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky has seen a 40 percent drop in its rate of uninsured since October 1.

 

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Medicaid Enrollment Continues Year Round

While open enrollment for the Marketplaces closed on March 31st, Medicaid coverage enrollment continues year round. That means we are going to continue, working with partners, to sign people up for Medicaid. We have made improvements to our systems and we are ramping up the tactics and tools that are working to reach uninsured Americans. We have learned that Medicaid expansion had a positive impact in getting people covered, as enrollment growth in states that expanded Medicaid was over 5 times higher than in other states (8.3 percent versus 1.6 percent).

 

One effective strategy for reaching people to get them signed up is through creative partnerships with hospitals and other service providers. For example, in many places hospitals make preliminary eligibility determinations and use a single, streamlined application for coverage. One other effective effort underway in five states uses supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP) income data information to identify individuals who are likely eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.

 

As of the end of February, almost half a million individuals have been determined eligible for Medicaid or CHIP as a result of this targeted effort, and more States are exploring similar strategies. Finally, all States are working to implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act which will make it much simpler and easier for individuals to apply for Medicaid coverage than prior to the law’s passage.

 

 

More States are Expanding Medicaid

Twenty-six States and the District of Columbia have expanded their Medicaid programs to cover low-income adults, providing access to millions of Americans who previously had no source of affordable health insurance. Earlier this week, on April 1, Michigan began enrolling individuals, expanding Medicaid eligibility to 470,000 people. The week before that, New Hampshire signed the Medicaid expansion into law, providing 50,000 people access to Medicaid coverage starting this July.

 

The arc of progress takes time. Since Medicaid was created in 1965, Medicaid has served a critical role in providing health coverage to certain low-income Americans. The ACA has moved beyond helping women and children, people with disabilities, and seniors, to expanding eligibility to all low-income people so that hard-working Americans who don’t have access to health care from their jobs don’t have to live in fear of getting sick. In the days and weeks to come, we will make sure we explain to the public the consequences of refusing to expand Medicaid and we will translate our learnings from the best practices of Medicaid enrollment to our year round effort to help more Americans access health care everyday.

 

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Statements and Releases

 

Statement by the President on Elections in Afghanistan

 

Weekly Address: The President’s Budget Ensures Opportunity for All Hardworking Americans

 

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Honey Maid “This Is Wholesome” And Honey Maid’s Response To Homophobes & Racist With “Love.”

 

The White House Weekend™: The Weekly Address. Miriam Carey. White House Easter Egg Roll Social. America’s PrepareAthon!

 

From The Sanders Firm: THE MIRIAM CAREY FAMILY REACTS TO THE AUTOPSY REPORT. What If Miriam Carey Had Been White?

 

April 4th, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King, Jr., Assassinated.

 

My April Fools Joke, 3 Days Late; Charles Koch: “I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society.”

 

 

It’s up to us to make history on "NO"vember 4th, 2014.

It’s up to us to make history on “NO”vember 4th, 2014.

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Geraldo Attacks O’Reilly Over Contentious Obama Interview: You ‘Minimized’ The President!


 

By Jueseppi B.

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Geraldo Attacks O’Reilly over Contentious Obama Interview: You ‘Minimized’ the President!

 

Published on Feb 8, 2014

Geraldo Rivera took on Bill O’Reilly Friday night over whether O’Reilly was disrespectful to President Obama in their big Super Bowl interview. Rivera gave O’Reilly some benefit of the doubt, but other than that thought O’Reilly was a bit too confrontational and didn’t give Obama the kind of respect a president normally deserves.

 

 

 

Rivera argued it was less like an interview and more like a meeting of the minds with the “President of Most of the White Guys of America” (O’Reilly) against the president of the rest of the country, and told O’Reilly that it was out of line for him to refer to Obama as a “community organizer.”

 

He said it was “unsettling to watch,” and the president deserves “all the respect and dignity” of the office. O’Reilly fired back that his job is not to please, it’s to “get information” and ask “the tough questions,” and believed that he gave enough deference and respect to the office of the presidency.

 

Bill O’Reilly interviews President Obama before the Super Bowl

 

Published on Feb 2, 2014

Bill O’Reilly sits down with President Obama at the White House to discuss the IRS scandal, Benghazi, the Affordable Care Act and the Super Bowl.

 

 

 

Rivera concluded that the larger point O’Reilly made about inner-city families was “obscured” by how he “minimized” the president.

 

 

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Happy 123rd Birthday Ms. Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960)


 

By Jueseppi B.

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Zora Neale Hurston is considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature. Hurston was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and has influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker, and Toni Cade Bambara.

 

In 1975, Ms. Magazine published Alice Walker’s essay, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” reviving interest in the author. Hurston’s four novels and two books of folklore resulted from extensive anthropological research and have proven invaluable sources on the oral cultures of African America.

 

Through her writings, Robert Hemenway wrote in The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, Hurston “helped to remind the Renaissance–especially its more bourgeois members–of the richness in the racial heritage.”

 

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist,anthropologist, and author who worked for the WPA. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

 

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Zora Neale Hurston
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Born January 7, 1891
Notasulga, Alabama, United States
Died January 28, 1960 (aged 69)
Fort Pierce, Florida, United States
Occupation Folklorist, anthropologist, novelist,

short story writer

Notable work(s) Their Eyes Were Watching God

www.zoranealehurston.com

 

Early life

Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston and Lucy Ann Hurston (née Potts). Her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter, and her mother was a school teacher. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, on January 7, 1891, where her father grew up and her grandfather was the preacher of a Baptist church. Her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black towns to be incorporated in the United States, when she was three. Hurston said she always felt that Eatonville was “home” to her and sometimes claimed it as her birthplace. Her father later became mayor of the town, which Hurston would glorify in her stories as a place where African Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. In 1901, some northern schoolteachers visited Eatonville and gave Hurston a number of books that opened her mind to literature, and this may be why she sometimes describes her “birth” as taking place in that year. Hurston spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, and describes the experience of growing up in Eatonville in her 1928 essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”.

 

In 1904, Hurston’s mother died and her father remarried, to Matte Moge, almost immediately, considered something of a minor scandal as it was rumored he had relations with Moge before Lucy died. Hurston’s father and new stepmother sent her away to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida, but they eventually stopped paying her tuition and the school expelled her. She later worked as a maid to the lead singer in a traveling Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company. In 1917, Hurston began attending Morgan College, the high school division of the historically African-American Morgan State University in BaltimoreMaryland. It was at this time, and apparently to qualify for a free high-school education (as well, perhaps to reflect her literary birth), that the 26-year-old Hurston began claiming 1901 as her date of birth. She graduated from Morgan State University in 1918.

 

College

In 1918, Hurston began undergraduate studies at Howard University, where she became one of the earliest initiates of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and co-founded The Hilltop, the university’s student newspaper. While there, she took courses in Spanish, English, Greek and public speaking and earned an associate’s degree in 1920. In 1921, she wrote a short story, John Redding Goes to Sea, which qualified her to become a member of Alaine Locke’s literary club, The Stylus. Hurston left Howard in 1924 and in 1925 was offered a scholarship to Barnard CollegeColumbia University where she was the college’s sole black student. Hurston received her B.A. in anthropology in 1927, when she was 36. While she was at Barnard, she conducted ethnographic research with noted anthropologist Franz Boas of Columbia University. She also worked with Ruth Benedict as well as fellow anthropology student Margaret Mead. After graduating from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University.

 

Adulthood

In 1927, Hurston married Herbert Sheen, a jazz musician and former classmate at Howard who would later become a physician, but the marriage ended in 1931. In 1939, while Hurston was working for the WPA, she married Albert Price, a 23-year-old fellow WPA employee, and 25 years her junior, but this marriage ended after only seven months.

 

She lived in a cottage in Eau Gallie, Florida, twice: once in 1929 and again in 1951.

 

During the 1930’s, Hurston was a resident of Westfield, New Jersey, where Langston Hughes was among her neighbors.

 

In later life, in addition to continuing her literary career, Hurston served on the faculty of North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham, North Carolina.

 

She also established, in 1934, a school of dramatic arts “based on pure Negro expression” at Bethune-Cookman University (at the time, Bethune-Cookman College) in Daytona Beach, Florida. In 1956 Hurston was bestowed the Bethune-Cookman College Award for Education and Human Relations in recognition of her vast achievements, and the English Department at Bethune-Cookman College remains dedicated to preserving her cultural legacy.

 

Anthropological and folkloric fieldwork

Hurston traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the American South and immersed herself in local cultural practices to conduct her anthropological research. Her work in the South, sponsored from 1928 to 1932 by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy philanthropist, produced Mules and Men in 1935, often regarded as a folklore classic, as well as the base material for novels like Jonah’s Gourd Vine published in 1934.

 

In 1936 and 1937, she traveled to Jamaica and to Haiti with support from the Guggenheim Foundation from which her anthropological work Tell My Horse published in 1938 emerged.

 

She also lived in Honduras, at the north coastal town of Puerto Cortés from October 1947 to February 1948. Her trip to Central America was apparently occasioned by the idea of locating either Mayan ruins or vestiges of some other as yet undiscovered civilization. While in Puerto Cortés, she wrote much of Seraph on the Suwanee, a book which had nothing to do with Honduras. Hurston expressed interest in the polyethnic nature of the population in the region (many of whom, such as the Miskito Zambu and Garifuna were in fact of partial African ancestry).

 

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Later years

In 1948, Hurston was falsely accused of molesting a ten-year-old boy; although the case was dismissed after Hurston presented evidence that she was in Honduras when the crime supposedly occurred in the U.S., her personal life was seriously disrupted by the scandal.

 

Hurston spent her last decade as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers. Her autobiography reported that she worked in a library inCape Canaveral, Florida; although new evidence indicates she worked at the Pan Am Technical Library at Patrick Air Force Base in 1957, just prior to moving to Fort Pierce. Here she took jobs where she could find them, including being a substitute teacher and a maid.

 

Death

During a period of financial and medical difficulties, Hurston was forced to enter St. Lucie County Welfare Home, where she suffered a stroke; she died of hypertensive heart disease on January 28, 1960, and was buried at the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce, Florida. Her remains were in an unmarked grave until 1973, when novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the general area where Hurston had been buried, and decided to mark it as hers.

 

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Literary career

 

1920’s

When Hurston arrived in New York City in 1925, the Harlem Renaissance was at its peak, and she soon became one of the writers at its center. Shortly before she entered Barnard, Hurston’s short story “Spunk” was selected for The New Negro, a landmark anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays focusing on African and African-American art and literature. In 1926, a group of young black writers including Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman, calling themselves the Niggerati, produced a literary magazine called Fire!! that featured many of the young artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1929, Hurston moved to Eau Gallie in Florida where she wrote, Mules and Men, which was later published in 1935.

 

1930’s

By the mid-1930s, Hurston had published several short stories and the critically acclaimed Mules and Men (1935), a groundbreaking work of “literary anthropology” documenting African-American folklore. In 1930, she also collaborated with Langston Hughes on Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in Three Acts, a play that was never finished, although it was published posthumously in 1991.

 

In 1937, Hurston was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to conduct ethnographic research in Jamaica and HaitiTell My Horse (1938) documents her account of her fieldwork studying African rituals in Jamaica and vodoun rituals in Haiti. Hurston also translated her anthropological work into the performing arts, and her folk revue, The Great Day premiered at the John Golden Theatre in New York in 1932.

 

Hurston’s first three novels were also published in the 1930s: Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934); Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), written during her fieldwork in Haiti and considered her masterwork; and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939).

 

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1940’s/1950’s

In the 1940s, Hurston’s work was published in such periodicals as The American Mercury and The Saturday Evening Post. Her last published novel,Seraph on the Suwanee, notable principally for its focus on white characters, was published in 1948. It explores images of “white trash” women. Jackson (2000) argues that Hurston’s meditation on abjection, waste, and the construction of class and gender identities among poor whites reflects the eugenics discourses of the 1920’s.

 

In 1952, Hurston was assigned by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the small-town murder trial of Ruby McCollum, the prosperous black wife of the local bolita racketeer, who had killed a racist white doctor. She also contributed to Woman in the Suwannee County Jail, a book by journalist and civil rights advocate William Bradford Huie. In 2008, The Library of America selected excerpts from this work for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime writing.

 

Public obscurity

Hurston’s work slid into obscurity for decades, for a number of cultural and political reasons.

Many readers objected to the representation of African-American dialect in Hurston’s novels, given the racially charged history of dialect fiction in American literature. Her stylistic choices in terms of dialogue were influenced by her academic experiences. Thinking like a folklorist, Hurston strove to represent speech patterns of the period which she documented through ethnographic research. For example, a character in Jonah’s Gourd Vine expresses herself in this manner:

“Dat’s a big ole resurrection lie, Ned. Uh slew-foot, drag-leg lie at dat, and Ah dare yuh tuh hit me too. You know Ahm uh fightin’ dawg and mah hide is worth money. Hit me if you dare! Ah’ll wash yo’ tub uh ‘gator guts and dat quick.”

 

Several of Hurston’s literary contemporaries criticized Hurston’s use of dialect as a caricature of African-American culture rooted in a racist tradition. More recently, many critics have praised Hurston’s skillful use of idiomatic speech. In particular, a number of writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance were critical of Hurston’s later writings, on the basis that they did not agree with or further the position of the overall movement. One particular criticism came from Richard Wright in his review of Their Eyes Were Watching God:

… The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life which is “quaint,” the phase which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the “superior” race.

 

During the 1930’s and 1940’s when her work was published, the pre-eminent African-American author was Richard Wright. Unlike Hurston, Wright wrote in explicitly political terms, as someone who had become disenchanted with communism, using the struggle of African Americans for respect and economic advancement as both the setting and the motivation for his work. Other popular African-American authors of the time, such as Ralph Ellison, dealt with the same concerns as Wright. Hurston’s work, which did not engage these political issues, did not fit in with this struggle. In 1951, for example, Hurston argued that New Deal economic support created a harmful dependency by African Americans on the government, and that this dependency ceded too much power to politicians.

 

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Posthumous recognition

An article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston”, by Alice Walker, published in the March 1975 issue of Ms. magazine, revived interest in Hurston’s work. The reemergence of her work coincided with the emergence of authors such as Toni MorrisonMaya Angelou, and Walker herself, whose works are centered on African-American experiences and include, but do not necessarily focus upon, racial struggle.

 

Biographies of Hurston include Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography by Robert HemenwayWrapped in Rainbows by Valerie BoydZora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit by Deborah G. PlantZora Neale Hurston’s Final Decade by Virginia Lynn Moylan; Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work (2009) by Sharon Lynette Jones;[31]and Speak So You Can Speak Again by Hurston’s niece, Lucy Anne Hurston.

 

Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, Florida, celebrates her life in an annual festival.

 

In 2001, Every Tongue Got to Confess was published posthumously. The book was a collection of field materials Hurston had gathered in the late 1920s to create her book Mules and Men. Originally entitled “Folktales from the Gulf States”, filmmaker Kristy Andersen had discovered the previously unknown collection of folk tales while researching the Smithsonian archives when they were placed in computer catalogs in 1997.

 

Hurston’s house in Fort Pierce is a National Historic Landmark.

 

Fort Pierce celebrates Hurston annually through various events such as Hattitudes, birthday parties, and a several-day festival at the end of April known as Zora Fest. Her life and legacy are also celebrated every year in Eatonville, the town that inspired her, at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

 

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Zora Neale Hurston on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

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Politics

John McWhorter has called Hurston “America’s favorite black conservative” while David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito have argued that she can better be characterized as a “libertarian.” She was a Republican who was generally sympathetic to the foreign policy non-interventionism of the Old Right and a fan of Booker T. Washington‘s self-help politics. She disagreed with the philosophies (including Communism and the New Deal) supported by many of her colleagues in the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes, who was in the 1930s a supporter of the Soviet Union and praised it in several of his poems. Despite much common ground with the Old Right in domestic and foreign policy, Hurston was not a social conservative. Her writings show an affinity for feminist individualism. In this respect, her views were similar to two libertarian novelists who were her contemporaries: Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson. Though her personal quotes show a disbelief of religion, Hurston did not negate spiritual matters as evidenced from her 1942 autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road.

 

Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws. The ever-sleepless sea in its bed, crying out “how long?” to Time; million-formed and never motionless flame; the contemplation of these two aspects alone, affords me sufficient food for ten spans of my expected lifetime. It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish. I feel no need for such. However, I would not, by word or deed, attempt to deprive another of the consolation it affords. It is simply not for me. Somebody else may have my rapturous glance at the archangels. The springing of the yellow line of morning out of the misty deep of dawn, is glory enough for me. I know that nothing is destructible; things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world. I was a part before the sun rolled into shape and burst forth in the glory of change. I was, when the earth was hurled out from its fiery rim. I shall return with the earth to Father Sun, and still exist in substance when the sun has lost its fire, and disintegrated into infinity to perhaps become a part of the whirling rubble of space. Why fear? The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost; so what need of denominations and creeds to deny myself the comfort of all my fellow men? The wide belt of the universe has no need for finger-rings. I am one with the infinite and need no other assurance.

 

In 1952, Hurston supported the presidential campaign of Senator Robert A. Taft. Like Taft, Hurston was against Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal policies. She also shared his opposition to Roosevelt and Truman‘s interventionist foreign policy. In the original draft of her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston compared the United States government to a “fence” in stolen goods and to a Mafia-like protection racket. Hurston thought it ironic that the same “people who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy … wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals…. We, too, consider machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.” She was scathing about those who sought “freedoms” for those abroad, but denied it to people in their home countries: Roosevelt “can call names across an ocean” for his Four Freedoms, but he did not have “the courage to speak even softly at home.” When Truman dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, she called him “the Butcher of Asia.”

 

Hurston opposed the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. She felt that if separate schools were truly equal (and she believed that they were rapidly becoming so), educating black students in physical proximity to white students would not result in better education. In addition, she worried about the demise of black schools and black teachers as a way to pass on cultural tradition to future generations of African Americans. She voiced this opposition in a letter, “Court Order Can’t Make the Races Mix”, that was published in the Orlando Sentinel in August 1955. Hurston had not reversed her long-time opposition to segregation. Rather, she feared that the Court’s ruling could become a precedent for an all-powerful federal government to undermine individual liberty on a broad range of issues in the future. Hurston also opposed preferential treatment for African-Americans, saying:

 

If I say a whole system must be upset for me to win, I am saying that I cannot sit in the game, and that safer rules must be made to give me a chance. I repudiate that. If others are in there, deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it, even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.

Selected bibliography

  • Color Struck (1925) in Opportunity Magazine, play
  • Sweat” (1926), short story
  • “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928), essay
  • “Hoodoo in America” (1931) in The Journal of American Folklore
  • The Gilded Six-Bits” (1933), short story
  • Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934), novel
  • Mules and Men (1935), non-fiction
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), novel
  • Tell My Horse (1938), non-fiction
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), novel
  • Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), autobiography
  • Seraph on the Suwanee (1948), novel
  • “What White Publishers Won’t Print” (1950) in Negro Digest
  • I Love Myself When I Am Laughing…and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (edited by Alice Walker) (1979)
  • The Sanctified Church (1981)
  • Spunk: Selected Stories (1985)
  • Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life (play, with Langston Hughes; edited with introductions by George Houston Bass and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) (1991)
  • The Complete Stories (introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke) (1995)
  • Novels & Stories: Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Moses, Man of the Mountain, Seraph on the Suwanee, Selected Stories(Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-0-940450-83-7
  • Folklore, Memoirs, & Other Writings: Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Dust Tracks on a Road, Selected Articles (Cheryl A. Wall, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-0-940450-84-4
  • Barracoon (1999)
  • Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States (2001)
  • Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (2003)
  • Collected Plays (2008)

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Film and television

In 1989 PBS aired a drama based on Hurston’s life entitled Zora is My Name!

The 2004 film Brother to Brother, set in part during the Harlem Renaissance, featured Hurston (portrayed by Aunjanue Ellis).

Their Eyes Were Watching God was adapted for a 2005 film of the same title by Oprah Winfrey‘s Harpo Productions, with a teleplay by Suzan-Lori Parks. The film starred Halle Berry as Janie Starks.

On April 9, 2008, PBS broadcast a 90-minute documentary Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun written and produced by filmmaker Kristy Andersen, as part of the American Masters series.

In 2009, Hurston was featured in a 90-minute documentary about the WPA Writers’ Project titled Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story, which premiered on the Smithsonian Channel. Her work in Florida during the 1930’s is also highlighted in the companion book, Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America

 

 

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