American Experience: Zora Neale Hurston Claiming a Space Premiers on PBS January 17

News from the Field
Black and white headshot of African American folklorist, Anthropologist, novelist, and dramatist Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston is wearing a stylish hat that is slanted to the right and a long-sleeved dress with gemstones applied to the collar in a semi-circular pattern. Hurston is smiling slightly, wearing lipstick, and looking up and out of the frame.
Portrait of Zora Neal Hurston by an unknown author.

A new biography of the trailblazing writer and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston, premiers on PBS on January 17.

American Experience presents Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space, a new in-depth biography of the influential author whose groundbreaking anthropological work would challenge assumptions about race, gender and cultural superiority that had long defined the field in the 19th century. Directed by Tracy Heather Strain, produced by Randall MacLowry and executive produced by Cameo George, the film premieres on American Experience on Tuesday, January 17, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, and the PBS Video app

Raised in the small all-Black Florida town of Eatonville, Zora Neale Hurston studied at Howard University before arriving in New York in 1925. She would soon become a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, best remembered for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. But even as she gained renown in the Harlem literary circles, Hurston was also discovering anthropology at Barnard College with the renowned Franz Boas. She would make several trips to the American South and the Caribbean, documenting the lives of rural Black people and collecting their stories. She studied her own people, an unusual practice at the time, and during her lifetime became known as the foremost authority on Black folklore.

Watch the preview.

Zora Neale Hurston is one of the many folklorists featured on AFS’s Notable Folklorists of Color website. Explore more at

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