Why did Zora Neale Hurston lose popularity?

Answered by Cody Janus

Zora Neale Hurston, a prominent African-American writer of the Harlem Renaissance, experienced a decline in popularity for several reasons. One significant factor was the changing attitudes towards the use of African-American dialect in literature. In her novels, Hurston skillfully incorporated African-American dialect, capturing the unique speech patterns and rhythms of her characters. However, as time went on, younger writers began to view the use of dialect as demeaning and reinforcing negative stereotypes.

The history of African-American dialect fiction in American literature is complex and fraught with controversy. In the past, white authors often used dialect to caricature and mock African-Americans, perpetuating racist stereotypes. This history made younger writers hesitant to use dialect in their own works, fearing it would perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to the marginalization of African-American voices.

Additionally, the Civil Rights Movement and the push for racial equality in the mid-20th century brought about a heightened awareness of racial representation and cultural authenticity. Many writers felt that using African-American dialect, even when done with care and respect, could still be seen as a form of appropriation or exploitation.

Moreover, the literary landscape was shifting towards a more universal and inclusive approach to storytelling. Writers began to emphasize the shared human experience rather than focusing solely on the specific experiences of a particular racial or ethnic group. This shift may have contributed to the waning popularity of Hurston’s dialect-heavy works, as they were seen as less relatable to a wider audience.

It is important to note that Hurston’s decline in popularity was not solely due to the changing attitudes towards dialect. Other factors, such as her outspokenness and controversial views on race and gender, also played a role. Hurston was known for her strong individualism and refusal to conform to societal expectations, which sometimes alienated her from both white and black audiences.

Zora Neale Hurston’s decline in popularity can be attributed, in part, to the changing attitudes towards the use of African-American dialect in literature. Younger writers felt that using dialect could perpetuate negative stereotypes and opted for a more universal approach to storytelling. Additionally, other factors such as her controversial views and individualistic nature contributed to her diminished popularity.