N.Y. Nathiri is an author, preservationist, historian, and native of Eatonville. This video excerpts her presentation about Zora Neale Hurston, who grew up in Eatonville, and the preservation of the town.
Zora Neale Hurston, daughter of an Alabama teacher mother and Baptist preacher father, was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement that was pivotal in the Art Deco era. Hurston attended Howard University, Barnard College and Columbia University. Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, which later became the setting for many of her novels and stories. After achieving international celebrity in Harlem, Hurston returned to live Florida, but engaged in anthropological research in the Caribbean and Central America. She lived in New Jersey, North Carolina, and many locales in Florida. In the years prior to her death in 1960 she lived in Fort Pierce, FL. Her house there is a National Historic Land mark. Her four novels include Their Eyes are Watching God (1937), a fictional account of lives of three of strong-willed women, descended from Nanny, a former slave, and Janie, the granddaughter central figure of the tale. Janie’s life evolves through three marriages, and culminates with an apocalyptic epic of death and survival arising from the great Lake Okeechobee hurricane of 1927. At the end, Janie ultimately settles in Eatonville.
Mrs. Nathiri, former executive director of Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, now is Director of Multidisciplinary Programs, and has been named “Hero of Preservation” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She is a founder of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of Arts and Humanities. Nathiri is former Cornell University librarian and academician. Her family has lived for generations in Eatonville, one of the nation's oldest incorporated black towns. As a child, she grew up listening to her grandmother’s vivid tales of Hurston's visits.
This lecture was one of a series presented over Deco Weekend 2013 -- a presentation of the Miami Design Preservation League in conjunction with the Wolfsonian.