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UHart Program Will Examine Zora Neale Hurston’s Work with Niece’s Lecture

Lucy Anne (left) and Zora Neale Hurston. Courtesy image

The work of an influential African American actor will be discussed at a lecture at the University of Hartford in West Hartford.

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Noted educator and historian Lucy Anne Hurston, whose late aunt was one of the most influential writers of 20th century African American literature, will present a lecture at the University of Hartford called, “The Experiences of Zora Neale Hurston: The Complexities and Intricacies of Race.”

The highly anticipated program is open to the public and will be held on campus at Wilde Auditorium (and streamed on Zoom) Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. Register to attend online or in person at hartford.edu/hurston. In addition to sharing stories and viewpoints, Lucy Anne Hurston is also generously donating several first-edition, signed copies of some of her aunt’s books to be added to UHart’s Harrison Libraries collection.

The presentation is sponsored by the Rogow Distinguished Visiting Lecturers Program in conjunction with the school’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, and its annual DEI Lecture Series.

Lucy Anne Hurston will also speak in a series for UHart’s Presidents’ College (the lifelong learning arm of the University) at the Harrison Libraries Oct. 12 and 19 at 10:30 a.m. To register, visit hartford.edu/presidentscollege.

Many experts maintain that what Zora Neale Hurston wrote about race a century ago is still exceedingly relevant today. A fiction writer and ethnographer who lived from 1891 to 1960, she confronted the injustices of her time, was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance, and was said to influence such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Her published work includes the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” books on African-American folklore, short stories and plays, and an autobiography.

In her lecture, Lucy Anne Hurston will utilize her aunt’s work as a way to bridge movements concerning racial inequality and discrimination from the past with issues in American society today. She will explore how to challenge it in the present day, in hopes of a more equitable and inclusive future.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to broaden the knowledge about Zora’s work,” says Lucy Anne Hurston. “In some respects, the world is beginning to catch up with Zora in its thinking and attitudes about racial inequality, discrimination, and the African-American experience.”

Her knowledge of Zora Neale Hurston’s life and work is based on years of research, and she has committed to sharing it with all who are interested. This is her first time speaking at UHart. However, Lucy Anne Hurston already feels a strong connection to the school as a resident of Hartford County and a member of Zeta Phi Beta, an historically African-American sorority of which her aunt was a member and which has a chapter at UHart.

Christine Grant, UHart’s Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, says hosting the lecture series allows students, faculty, and staff to deepen their knowledge, increase awareness, inspire dialog, and shape the ways in which diversity, equity, and inclusion are promoted on campus and in the community. This year’s lecture series theme is “Celebrating Literary Voices to Create an Inclusive Culture.”

“This lecture will provide a springboard and guide to help us to think beyond who and what we are. The lived and emotional experiences found in literature help to engage readers with stories and themes such as race and society that are relatable to everyone,” Grant explains.

“We are very lucky to be able to bring Lucy Anne Hurston to campus,” adds English Professor Michele Troy, of UHart’s Hillyer College and the Presidents’ College. “In addition to being the niece of a groundbreaking 20th-century author, in her own right she’s a sociologist and teacher who can help us better find the Zora Neale Hurston we may not know, and to tease out why and how her aunt’s writings might speak to our own fraught cultural and political moment.”

For more information, visit hartford.edu.

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