In the following excerpts from her Virginia Gildersleeve lecture, delivered
on October 3, 2003, Alice Walker speaks of her conception of Hurston's legacy. Every conference, panel,
paper, and, indeed, Web journal on Zora Neale Hurston owes a debt to
Alice Walker for her efforts in bringing Hurston's life and work to our
collective attention nearly 30 years ago. In a 1975 article, "In Search
of Zora Neale Hurston," published in Ms. magazine, Walker began a
process of honoring Hurston's life and work and uncovering her legacy by
narrating her own efforts to locate Hurston's grave and place a marker
on it. At that time, Walker made an important contribution to
biographical work on Hurston by recounting the stories of some that knew
her in Florida (and posing as a Hurston niece to do so); and she also
provided a bibliography of Hurston's major works, those in and out of
print, and thereby ignited Hurston interest from academics and
publishers. Even more importantly, perhaps, than Walker's recovery of
Hurston biography or bibliography is the spiritual work that her article
enacts—the reclamation of a foremother and that mother's literary
"garden," a profoundly personal and deeply political act. Alice Walker
last spoke about Hurston at Barnard in 1975; we were especially pleased
to welcome her back as a Gildersleeve lecturer for "Jumpin' at the Sun."
Alice Walker narrates her personal journey to Zora Neale Hurston
through a childhood and education that was devoid of the presence of
black women writers.
Alice Walker reads a poem that Zora Neale Hurston "would have loved."
Alice Walker delivers the 2003 Virginia Gildersleeve lecture (full-length lecture).