Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston’s Legacy One Field Trip At a Time

Bookshelves filled with books highlighting Zora Neale Hurston and other Black figures.
Bookshelves filled with books highlighting Zora Neale Hurston and other Black figures.
Aniyah Martin

A small group of students had the chance to visit the 35th annual Zora Neale Hurston festival in Eatonville the oldest Black incorporated town in the United States. The field trip gave students an experience that would celebrate the rich background of the town and the legacy of a prominent local Black historical figure. All planned by their language arts teachers Mr. Zachary Sweeney and Dr. Joanne Craig.

Culturally based activities are often overlooked by students in Florida despite the numerous historical figures and history behind the state. The teachers felt inclined to include students in field trips like these, as many of the students who attended the field trip had little to no knowledge of the author and the racial struggles of the early 1900s, she portrayed in her writing. 

Statue representing African culture outside Eatonville town hall. (Aniyah Martin)

“I hope my students would get an appreciation for her work. Number one, her being such a great novelist, number two, I hope with her feet touching the soil of where this great author came from, they could somehow connect with her history and legacy,” 10th grade language arts teacher Dr. Craig said.  

Shining a light on local Black culture, the teachers correlated their lessons in class with the field trip going over some of Hurston’s life experiences and the history of the town of Eatonville. Dr. Craigs 10th grade language arts class had the chance to read one of Hurston’s well-known novels “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” while Mr. Sweeney’s AICE General Paper class read Zora’s short story, “Spunk” and essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” 

“The students had the chance to read her stories and experiences, and for them to go and visit the place where the author had experienced those same things is an opportunity of a lifetime. The same house she lived in, the same town she grew up in, they got to see it all firsthand even if it was decades later,” language arts teacher Mr. Sweeney said. 

Field trip group lined up outside the festival. (Aniyah Martin)

 Small Black-owned business owners were highlighted at the festival as a variety of tents were set up selling goods like handcrafted jewelry, colorful bags, and African garments that typically are not sold in other stores. 

“I really liked the shops at the field trip because it wasn’t just your basic average shopping experience. I mean there was literally stuff made by artists deep in Africa. It made me feel like I was meeting the past,” senior Chelsea Garcia said.  

The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts was open for students to explore and learn about historical art. Mr. Millard, a volunteer at the museum, explained to students the importance of the festival and what Zora’s legacy meant to him. 

Volunteer Mr.Millard presenting art work to students. (Christin Blanco)

“We really look into her story and what she accomplished as a woman, and we thank her and appreciate her. We hope others use her as a beacon of hope towards their goals. I mean she overcame all kinds of obstacles. She’s like a bumble bee, according to physics the bumble bee’s wings are too small to fly but they still do just like Zora did,” volunteer Mr. Miller said.  

Adding to the lively atmosphere of the festival, 4th graders from Hungerford Elementary and their teachers put on a show, showing off their best dance moves and sharing African folklore. Students clapped and sang along as they were taught various words from the Nigerian language. 

Hungerford Elementary students perform free-styled dances. (Aniyah Martin)

“It amazes me how a group of little kids are so connected to their culture and embrace it so young. Crazy how the performance taught me about African traditions and phrases through music and dance,” freshman Melanie Santos explained.

Zora Neale Hurston was not only an incredible author, but a symbol of hope for the town of Eatonville. The “Zora” festival highlights Hurston and her achievements along with African culture through stories, artwork, and experiences. Actress Lila Hicks, who portrayed Zora at a performance for the festival, expanded on why she believes a community that once experienced so much struggle now recognizes and honors their history  

“I think the most important part of participating in something like this one is continuing and participating in a memory which allows these people to remain alive in some way. By people I mean Zora and the other figures we celebrate at this very festival,” Hicks said. 


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About the Contributors
Aniyah Martin
Aniyah Martin, Website Manager
Aniyah Martin is a 15-year-old sophomore. This is her second year on staff. She believes journalism brings out her creative side and challenges her writing skills. Born in Orlando, she has since lived in Florida her whole life. In her free time, she enjoys making memories with her friends and family, attempting to open her third eye, and fan girling over Ice Spice. Looking into her crystal ball she sees a successful and wealthy business she built from scratch surrounded by all the love in the world.
Christin Blanco
Christin Blanco, Social Media Manager
Christin Blanco is a Senior at Four Corners Upper School, making her 2nd year debut on the Coyote Chronicle. Her hobbies include listening to the coolest music, surrounding herself with the color pink, and indulging in all things metaphysical. She has extensive knowledge of pop culture and casting spooky spells, and hopes to cook up only the best in her cauldron for the school’s social media.

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    Jose martinFeb 7, 2024 at 7:21 pm

    Such a great story and huge part of history!!!
    Keep up with the great articles…