Google’s Eyes Are Watching Zora Neale Hurston

Today’s “doodle” commemorates an African-American iconoclast’s 123rd birthday.

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PHOTO/GOOGLE

If you thought you saw a familiar face this morning when you went to do your first Internet search of the day, it’s because you did.

It was the famous face, framed by her ever-present ’20s-style cloche, of writer, anthropologist and all-around American icon—and iconoclast—Zora Neale Hurston.

Google celebrated what would have been her 123rd birthday on Tuesday by honoring Hurston, best known for her work Their Eyes Were Watching God, with what is perhaps the ultimate form of online recognition these days: a commemorative “doodle” on the site’s ubiquitous homepage.

The Notasulga, Ala., native, who grew up in Eatonville, Fla., was a member of the historically black Zeta Phi Beta sorority and a co-founder of the Hilltop, Howard University's student newspaper. As John McWhorter wrote for The Root back in 2011, some consider Hurston “America’s favorite black conservative.”

While the Harlem Renaissance era was her heyday, she clearly still strikes a chord, with the conservative National Review cheering Hurston’s Google doodle with the headline “Zora! Zora! Zora!” and the Orlando Sentinel blogging the doodle 58 years after Hurston wrote a controversial op-ed in the Sentinel’s pages, outlining her skepticism of the famous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Several years after her death, interest in Hurston’s life and work was revived in 1975 with Alice Walker’s Ms. magazine essay, “Still Searching Out Zora Neale Hurston.”

And as Princeton’s Daphne A. Brooks told The Root, Google’s tribute was fitting for Hurston, who was “a groundbreaking experimental novelist, champion of black vernacular culture and a daring anthropological scholar,” whose “masterpiece, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was a small but extraordinary portion of her mammoth body of work that shaped and transformed modern American life."

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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