Zora Neale Hurston, a Southern African American culture writer and Harlem Renaissance influencer, grew up in Eatonville, Florida. This town located just north of Orlando is the setting of much of her writing, including what is often considered her best-known work, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Eatonville is also the setting of the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival that celebrates Zora’s life and the impact she had on Southern African American culture and the cultural contributions that all people of African descent have had on the United States and worldwide.
The Zora Neale Hurston Festival, held each year in January, to coincide with Zora’s birthday, is a multidisciplinary event featuring public talks, museum exhibits, theatrical productions, art education programming and an outdoor Festival of the Arts.
The festival, which commenced in 1990, has welcomed over 1.5 million attendees to this culturally robust central Florida community. Featured prominent figures in the African-culture community have included poet, memoirist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou; actor, director and political activist Danny Glover and American historian John Hope Franklin.
This year’s monthlong event launches on January 7, 2021, with a “Happy Birthday, Zora” celebration. Participants can celebrate virtually or attend in person between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to enjoy a piece of what would have been Zora’s 130th birthday cake.
Other festival highlights include:
- Experiencing Eatonville – An opportunity for attendees to tour historic locations throughout the community such as the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. Includes the “Eating Extravaganza: A Taste of Eatonville” with stops at several local restaurants.
- Women’s Forum – The theme for this year’s annual Women’s Forum is “Women Empowered for Economic Revival Beyond the Pandemic and Injustice.”
- Afrofuturism – This two-day event is part of a cultural movement featuring futuristic themes that incorporate black history and culture.
- Community Conversations – The first of a series called “Community Conversations: A Three-Part Series on Race and Economic Realities in 21st century America” will launch during the festival.
The format of this year’s festival is a special “hybrid event” with virtual and in-person programming that will follow CDC guidelines. Be sure to check the festival website for precise details about each festival event.
As of this writing, the festival is currently sponsored by several of Eatonville’s surrounding Central Florida neighbors, including the University of Central Florida and Full Sail University. For more information about sponsor opportunities, check out Sponsor Opportunities on the festival website.
The Zora Neale Hurston Festival showcases Eatonville as the vibrant Southern African American cultural epicenter it truly is! For more information, including the complete schedule of events, visit zorafestival.org or call 407-647-3307.
“The Zora Neale Hurston Festival is America’s longest-running arts and humanities festival celebrating the cultural contributions of people of African ancestry throughout the diaspora.”Executive Director, N.Y. Nathiri