Happy Birthday Zora Neale Hurston! -- January 7, 1891


By Alexander Haimann, Collections Specialist

Today the Smithsonian National Postal Museum is celebrating the 119th birthday of widely acclaimed American writer -- Zora Neale Hurston!

2003 Zora Neale Hurston stamp.
© United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.

Hurston was one of America’s most original and accomplished writers, and a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and early 1930s. She studied African-American heritage at a time when African-American culture was not a popular field of study. Though born in Notasulga, Alabama, Hurston moved to Eatonville, Florida at an early age. Eatonville was the first incorporated all-black town in the United States and the location that influenced the folklore and fiction that Hurston later wrote.

As a fiction writer, Hurston is noted for her metaphorical language, her story-telling, and her interest in and celebration of Southern, African-American culture in the United States. Her best known novel is Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). In the 1970s, a new generation of African-American writers, most notably Alice Walker, rediscovered and republished many of Hurston’s writings.

The United States honored Hurston on a postage stamp in 2003 as part of the Literary Arts Series. The portrait of Hurston featured on the stamp was adapted from a 1934 photograph of the famous writer taken by Carl Van Vechten in Chicago. The background, depicting a sunrise over a river and a tree dripping with Spanish moss, attempts to portray the scenery of Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The stamp's first day of issue ceremony took place on January 24, in Eatonville, Florida.

Refer to caption
The Reverse of the 2003 Zora Neale Hurston stamp.

Alex Haimann

About the Author
Alexander T. Haimann, Collections Specialist & Web Projects Developer at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, collects and writes primarily about the stamps and postal history of the U.S. during the first one hundred years of stamp production (1847-1947). Additionally, he develops internet based education projects and exhibits for the National Postal Museum. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Stamp Dealers Association, the Chair of the American Philatelic Society’s Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship and the publicist for the United State Philatelic Classics Society. His national and international society memberships include the American Philatelic Society, United States Stamp Society, Collectors Club of New York and the Royal Philatelic Society London.