Dr. Sharony Green Awarded Newberry Fellowship to Study Zora Neale Hurston

Image of Zora Neal Hurston in a hat.Complicated power exchanges have been a focal point of interest to Dr. Sharony Green for quite some time. After researching this topic with antebellum white and African Americans as well as people of African descent on the Florida peninsula since the colonial era in mind, Dr. Green has focused on Alabama native, author, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston in Honduras. Recent headlines about the migrant crisis at the southern border prompted this move.

Down on her luck in the late 1940s, Hurston spent several months in Honduras to complete a novel and find a “lost” Maya ruin. She later tried to return to Central America to complete the latter effort. But she was soon stranded in South Florida where she famously found work as a housekeeper. She helped white moderate George Smathers secure a U.S. Senate seat in his 1950 primary challenge against the legendary Claude Pepper. The race was one of the dirtiest elections in Florida history. Though a Democrat, Smathers was a staunchly anti-communist just like Hurston, a lifelong Republican.

The Newberry Library awarded Dr. Green a Long-Term Fellowship including a $37,500 grant for her research on Hurston’s time in Honduras. Dr. Green had earlier assessed Hurston’s personal papers. While on fellowship, Dr. Green revisited those papers and the personal published and unpublished papers of British and American visitors to Honduras and other documents. She also worked closely with UA’s Cartographic Lab to create maps. On the basis of this research Dr. Green has now written a book on Hurston’s life, which is now under review at a publisher.

Her study on the across-time trials and triumphs of blacks in Florida is under review as well.