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Zora Neale Hurston Prize

This prize of $250 is named for the pioneering folklorist, ethnographer, and creative writer who lived from 1891 to 1960, worked in and wrote extensively about African American communities throughout the southern U.S., and is internationally known for her folklore collection Mules and Men (1935) and her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), as well as other notable works. The prize is given to a graduate or undergraduate student for the best work in any medium—including but not limited to published or unpublished papers, films, sound recordings, or exhibitions—on African American folklore.

Works submitted for prize consideration do not have to be about Hurston herself. One of the past prize-winning works was a graduate research paper that resulted in a thesis, another was a course paper written by a graduate student and later published as an article in the journal Southern Folklore, and the most recent was an ethnography project conducted by an undergraduate student for a senior seminar course.

The next deadline for nominations is August 15. Please submit your nomination via the AFS prize application form

Submissions should include:

  • resume or CV
  • work to be considered

Nominees not selected in the year of their original nomination are kept in consideration for two more reviews.

Past Zora Neale Hurston Prize Recipients

Edward Lessor, Florida State University, for his paper “Finding Your Feet in Fiction: Zora Neale Hurston’s Experimental Ethnography” (1996)

Krista Thompson, Emory University, for her paper “Performing Ethnography in Zora Neale Hurston’s The Great Day” (1997)

Peter J. Brownlee, George Washington University, for his paper “‘Where De Water Drink Lak Cherry Wine’: The Importance of Zora Neale Hurston’s Work in Polk County, Florida; Honorable Mention to Yolanda Hood, University of Missouri, Columbia, for her paper “The Crafter and the Craft: Postmodernism and the African American Quilting Tradition” (1998)

The Hurston Prize was not awarded in 1999.

Patrick A. Polk, University of California, Los Angeles, for his article “Other Books, Other Powers: The 6th and 7th Books of Moses in Afro-Atlantic Folk Belief” (2000)

Amy McKibbin, Florida State University, for her paper “Folklore Beliefs in African-American Families” (2001)

Antony Cherian and Mark Westmoreland, University of Texas, Austin, for their film Truth I Ever Told (2002)

Wanda Addison, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, for her paper “Self-Representation Through Discourse: Bertha Handy’s Mirrored Ideology” (2003)

Quan Lateef, Howard University, for her paper “The Rap That Binds: The Evolution of Hop Hop” (2004)

Scott Edmondson, University of California, Los Angeles, for his film “I Seen and I Know”: Testimony From a Los Angeles Storefront (2005)

The Hurston Prize was not awarded in 2006.

Tracy Carpenter, The Ohio State University, for her paper “The Construction of the Crack Mother Icon” (2007)

Aron Myers, Florida State University, for his documentary, soundtrack, and curriculum guide The Life and Times of Zora Neale Hurston (2008)

Jelani Mahiri, University of California, Berkeley, for his paper “Slavery, Inequality and Informal Work: A Genealogical Investigation of Occupational Folklore in Brazil” (2009)

Sheila Bock, The Ohio State University, for “’Grappling to Think Clearly’: Vernacular Theorizing in Robbie McCauley’s Sugar” (2010)

Vincent Joos, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for his paper “The Natchez Fire: A Profile of African American Remembrance in a Small Mississippi Town” (2011)

Kate Parker Horigan, The Ohio State University, for her paper “Unofficial Histories in Katrina Survivor Narratives” (2012)

The Hurston Prize was not awarded in 2013.

Julia Cox, University of Pennsylvania, for her paper “Sho’ Can’t Read My Mind: Hurston’s Literary Science and Code-Switching in Mules and Men” (2014)

Rebecca Panovka, Harvard University, for her paper “The Literary Afterlife of African American Folklore” (2015)

Tyler D. Parry, University of South Carolina, for his paper “Married in Slavery Time: Jumping the Broom in Atlantic Perspective” (2016)

The Hurston Prize was not awarded in 2017.

Laura Wilson, University of Mississippi, for her paper “‘Both Literary and Anthropological’: Reconsidering the Methodological Identity of Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men” (2018)

Allie Martin, Indiana University, for her paper “‘Sounds Like Smooth Jazz Now’: Hearing Gentrification in Shaw, Washington, DC” (2019)

Jaime Elizabeth Johnston, Louisiana State University, for her thesis “My Mother Read My Dreams: Dream Interpretation in the African Diaspora” (2022)

Jessica Cushenberry, Utah State University, for her thesis “Home to Harlan: African American Miners’ Children Celebration of Homecoming” (2022)

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