Nonagenarian To Share Stories Of Zora Neale Hurston In Jacksonville

Apr 15, 2013

M Alene Murrell at home in Jacksonville. The 95 year old knew Zora Neal Hurston.
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

African American author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston is best known for her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Hurston was 13 years old when she left her home in Eatonville, Florida in 1904 - her story typically picks up again a decade or so later in New York City. What a lot of people don’t know is that Hurston lived for a number of years in Jacksonville, and returned from time to time until her death in 1960. 

Tuesday afternoon, The Ritz Theatre shines a spotlight on those missing years and the 95 year old Jacksonville woman who wrote a book about them.

Mildred Alene Murrell was a little girl when she first met Zora Neale Hurston.  She remembers Hurston as being larger than life.

"Well, Zora was like a genius," says Murrell. "She was talented in so many areas. She could sing. She could dance. She could do poetry. She could write. Her story telling was fabulous, because she could make up such funny stories, especially when she was talking to the little ones."

Murrell says while everyone else was laughing singing, she would often just sit there and take it all in, trying to commit as much of it as she could to memory. 

Those memories are the foundation of Murrell’s book, Zora Neale Hurston, In and Around Jacksonville, Florida in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s

Mildred Alene Murrell will be at the Ritz Theatre from 4-6pm, April 16 telling her own stories about Zora and signing copies of her book.