Zora Neale Hurston, born in 1891 to two former slaves, is widely acknowledged as one of the leading writers of twentieth-century African-American and feminist literature. She is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God – a coming of age tale that follows a voiceless, mixed race teenage girl as she matures and gains a sense of agency.
It seems apt, then, to have Solange Knowles – a consistently vocal activist and advocate of ‘black joy’ – speak about Hurston’s legacy during a recent exclusive interview for BBC Radio 4’s podcast series, Seriously…
“As a black woman and as a black womanist and feminist, I feel incredibly empowered by Zora’s work,” Knowles explains. In a clip from the recording (playable below), the singer discusses the writer’s knack for tackling different themes through “poetic-ness and bluntness”. She also mentions the sense of empowerment that Zora’s work is centred around, and the idea of “breaking down and disassembling the angry black woman” – a notion that Knowles strives to communicate in her own work too.
She then reads an extract from Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston’s 1942 autobiography, before surmising just how ahead of her time Zora truly was, adding: “She’s been doing it forever!”.