New Documentary Film Digs into Zora’s Roots on PBS

A new documentary will relay the tale of one of the 20th Century’s greatest story tellers, Zora Neale Hurston.

A new documentary will relay the tale of one of the 20th Century’s greatest story tellers, Zora Neale Hurston. The film, Zora’s Roots, airs nationwide on the Public Broadcasting System from April 18 throughout the rest of the month.

Zora’s Roots delves into the life of Hurston, the most prolific female writer of the Harlem Renaissance. She is most widely known today as the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, a seminal novel of African-American and women’s literature. Her highly regarded fiction and extensive output in non-fiction was informed by her training as an anthropologist and folklorist of the African-American experience.

Written and directed by Tom Lowe of Eagle Productions, Zora’s Roots traces Hurston’s trail-blazing journey. The film takes viewers from her turn-of-the-century childhood in the all-black township of Eatonville, Florida, to her milestone as the first black graduate of New York’s Barnard College in 1928 and onward throughout the highs and lows of her groundbreaking career as a writer and researcher.

Some highlights of Hurston’s work explored in the film include her roles as a playwright and as a writer for Paramount Pictures and her frequent contributions to publications such as The Saturday Evening Post. The film also explores her trajectory as an anthropologist who traveled to locations including Honduras and Haiti conducting fieldwork on languages and cultures.

Despite her body of work which would become a national treasure, Hurston died poor in Florida in 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Over a decade later, the African-American novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt located what they believed to be her grave and marked it in her name. Walker’s publication of the article “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in the March 1975 issue of Ms. magazine led to a resurgence of interest in her vital work.

Find Zora’s Roots on PBS starting April 18.