christmas · literary

zora and christmas

Inspired by Twitter mention of Langston Hughes’ hand-drawn Christmas card in Yale’s Beinecke Library, I went looking for the Christmas cards. I recalled seeing in the Zora Neale Hurston Papers in Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida during two visits. 


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The one above is a 1954 card from Mitchell Burroughs, her editor at Scribner’s, and his partner Helen. Below is one from E.E. Owens. The burnt marks are owed to her papers being set on fire following her death in Ft. Pierce, Florida, the last town in which she lived. Someone – a police officer and friend – who knew her genius saved them.

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The one immediately above is a 1955 card from the Van Bergens. The one below is an undated card from Ralph Hartman.

The one below is a 1952 card from her oldest brother John Cornelius Hurston and his wife Elouise. The Alabama native and Florida-bred Hurston briefly resided with John and another brother in Jacksonville following her mother’s death in 1904. At the time she received this card, she was living in Eau Gallie, part of present-day Melbourne, Florida. For years, she attempted to buy property in this community. She seemed most at home there.

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And here is a 1940 woodcut Christmas card from Hurston to Hartman. I found it in Mary Lyons Sorrow’s Kitchen: The Life of Folklore of Zora Neale Hurston courtesy of McClain Books and Zora Neale Hurston Estate. Screen Shot 2019-12-13 at 8.56.11 PM.png

This image and every other image are offered with fair use. All copyright holders retain their rights.

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And below is a card Hurston drew herself. It is in the Fannie Hurst papers at UT-Austin.

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The year was 1926. She was on the eve of being an amazing member of the celebrated group of artists, writers, poets, and intellectuals of African descent who figured into the Harlem Renaissance. Below is a 1926 hand-drawn card from Langston Hughes, a distinguished member of the Harlem Renaissance, from Beinecke Library. The year is 1950, the very year in which Hurston spent two seasons in greater Miami. This time is of special interest to me as a researcher.

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How do we find meaning in the ability of a woman of African descent to make claims to power with this sunny environ in view? I attempt to answer this question and others in an in-progress manuscript and creative work.


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