Saturday, September 5, 2015

Zora Neale Hurston, Mary Helen Washington, and Black World

Alice Walker is often rightly credited with helping to lead renewed interest in the life and career of Zora Neale Hurston. Walker's essay "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" published in 1975 in Ms. magazine definitely made many readers aware of the author's work.

However, it's worth noting that Black World magazine showcased Hurston on the cover for its August 1974 issue, which includes an article on Hurston and Richard Wright by June Jordan as well as an essay on Hurston's works by Ellease Southerland. Leading black arts writer Larry Neal had produced introductions for 1971 reprints of Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road and Jonah's Gourd. Given the large, national readership of Black World, though, it's likely the publication's coverage of Hurston was particularly far-reaching.

That August 1974 issue of Black World also included Mary Helen Washington's essay "Black Women Image Makers" concentrating on Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Paule Marshall, Maya Angelou, and Toni Cade Bambara. In the August 1972 issue of Black World, Washington had published an essay, "The Black Woman's Search for Identity: Zora Neale Hurston's Work." Washington was out front on Hurston and more broadly on the then emergent scholarly discourse on black women writers.   

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