Beaches Museum hosts Boardwalk Talk honoring novelist Zora Neale Hurston

Dr. Tru Leverette spoke about Hurston’s lifetime achievements and contributions to African American history


Tru Leverette, Ph. D associate professor of English at the University of North Florida, was a guest speaker the Beaches Museum Feb. 25 as part of the museum’s Boardwalk Talk lecture series.

Leverette’s lecture, entitled Zora Neale Hurston and the Pleasure of her Company, drew a packed crowd to the Beaches Museum Chapel in Jacksonville Beach.

Zora Neale Hurston is most famously known for her novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” however, Leverette also spoke about her lesser known contribution toward the Harlem Renaissance, her anthropological studies and her enigmatic personal life. Hurston, who died in 1960, was one of the first scientists to actively document and capture African American oral tradition folklore, such as “Brer Rabbit” and “Signifying Monkey.” Because of her work, many firsthand recollections and retellings were captured and preserved.

Growing up in the all black town of Eatonville, Florida, Leverette said Hurston also spent some time in Jacksonville while attending school. Here, Leverette said, was where she first experienced racial discrimination as she retells in her essay, “How it Feels to be Colored Me.” Due to her experiences, much of Hurston’s fiction work takes place in Florida. Today, Orange County celebrates a Zora Neale Hurston festival every year at the anniversary of her death.

Hurston’s work is widely recognized as some of the pinnacle literary achievements during the Harlem Renaissance. She died in 1960, however, she was mostly unrecognized until years after her death, during the 1970s. She is known for capturing African American dialect as it was spoken in the South in the 20s and 30s, which can be tied back to her work preserving the region’s folklore, also known as “Lying Sessions.”

Leverette’s presentation was held at the Beaches Museum honoring Black History Month.  Next month the museum will be celebrating women’s suffrage with Dr. Peggy Macdonald presenting “Florida's Female Pioneers,” on March 5 at 6 p.m. For more information on upcoming Boardwalk Talks or chapel events, visit,