After World War I, Harlem became known for the sudden emergence of literature, theater and music attributed to the migration of African Americans from the South and other cities. Both Zora Neal Hurston and Richard Wright emerged as writers this time, this, however, should not be the sole basis for comparison of their writing as writers themselves. Both Wright and Hurston had different agendas as writers and it is not as important to note their upbringing and backgrounds, but their audiences and the reason that drove them to write.
Zora Neal Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida, an all black community in 1891. She is known mainly for her novels, but she was also an anthropologist and folklorist. She studied under Franz Boas while at Barnared College and conducted fieldwork in Harlem. This is important because it held her to systematically collect and study the legends, myths and dialect of her informants. Boas stressed that no culture is superior to another and cultures should be studied equally. Hurston was criticized for using dialect, being a "sensual" writer and writing for the mainstream (white) society. Her writing was unlike Wright's, whom Henry Louis Gates, Jr. calls "Hurston's dominant black male contemporary and rival" (188).
Richard Wright was born in 1908 in Mississippi and describes his childhood an autobiographical novel he published in 1945, Black Boy. Wright grew up in the racially charged South and sought to quench the physical hunger he has felt since his father abandoned the family and the spiritual hunger that he was unable to find even though his grandmother was very religious. This hunger, whether tangible or not, led him on a journey...
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...cs such as goodness, humility, love, or kindness. His writing can be interpreted as a call to arms at a time when he felt Blacks were apathetic to the problems facing Blacks. The wide scope of these two writers shows how labels are used to categorize people, thus creating a stereotype.
Gates,Henry Louis Jr. Afterward. "Zora Neale Hurston: 'A Negro Way of Saying.'" Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. 1990 ed.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial Library, 1990 ed.
Walker, Alice. "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston." Ms. (March 1975): 74-79, 85-89.
Ward, Jerry W. Jr. Introduction. Black Boy. 1998 ed.
Washington, Mary Helen. Foreword. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. 1990 ed.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy (American Hunger): A Record of Childhood and Youth. 1998 ed.
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