Today’s Google Doodle honors the American novelist, activist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, who was born on Jan. 7, 1891.
Born in Alabama and raised in Florida, Hurston would become of the most influential black authors of the twentieth century, mingling in circles of the Harlem Renaissance and influencing generations to come. TIME included her among 50 cultural giants in African-American history, and her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, which starkly portrays the life of a black woman in early twentieth century Florida, is often cited as one of the top novels of the last century.
“This is the great tale of black female survival in a world beset by bad weather and bad men,” TIME wrote about the novel in 2010, in its list of the 100 best English-language novels. “Her succulent book has its stretches of overripe prose, but that’s the price of taking the chances she takes with language, chances you have to take to arrive at the witchy places she gets to. (Sizing up her third husband, Tea Cake, she notices “his lashes curling sharply like drawn scimitars.”) It’s a short book, but you savor it.”
Hurston’s work included four novels, dozens of short stories, plays and essays, and two books of folklore based on her anthropological research that captured some of the oral history of African Americans.
“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions,” she once wrote.
Hurston died in Florida in 1960.