Noted Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston spent her final years in Florida, creating the first black baby doll, covering the Ruby McCollum murder trial as a reporter, writing the biography of a famous Dade County judge and writing columns for the local black newspaper in Fort Pierce.
These were just a few of the stories Hurston author Lynn Moylan shared with Vero Beach residents attending a Florida Humanities Council presentation at The Emerson Center. Moylan is the author of Zora Neale Hurston’s Final Decade, recognized by the Florida Book Awards with a Silver Medal for Nonfiction.
Moylan, a teacher in the Palm Beach County School District, spent nearly 10 years researching Hurston and her many activities throughout the state before she died on January 28, 1960 in Fort Pierce. She is buried in Sarah’s Memorial Garden on North 17th Street.
Hurston came to Fort Pierce in 1957 to work as a reporter / columnist at The Chronicle, the local black newspaper owned by publisher C.E. Bolen. He had known Hurston’s family from Eatonville, an all black community northeast of Orlando, and knew she was looking for a job. Her job consisted of stories from the community, but also her experiences collecting black cultural songs and oral histories while working for the Federal Writers Project and on various anthropological fellowships.
Hurston also taught 9th grade English at Lincoln Park Academy when it was an all-black school.
Moylan’s presentation at The Emerson explained Hurston’s final 10 years and her many friendships that were established as she came to appreciate her life in Fort Pierce. Among those friends were noted Florida landscape artist A.E. “Bean” Backus, Miami Herald reporter Anne Wilder and others.
Moylan was a guest speaker at the 2013 Zora Fest! in early March and a guest speaker for the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando following her Vero Beach program.
Pictured above at The Emerson Center are, from left, Center host Susan Granpierre, Marine Bank President and CEO and Humanities program sponsor Bill Penney, author Lynn Moylan and Zora Fest! committee member Adrienne Moore.