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Can love and independence coexist? - Tanya Boucicaut

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Baritone thunder. Snarling winds. Consuming downpours. Okeechobee, the hurricane of 1928, forced many to flee their ruined communities. But for Janie Crawford, it inspired an unexpected homecoming. So begins Zora Neale Hurston’s acclaimed novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” about a Black woman’s quest for love and agency. Tanya Boucicaut dives into this classic of the Harlem Renaissance.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Tanya Boucicaut
  • Director Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat
  • Narrator Safia Elhillo
  • Animator Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat
  • Composer Cem Misirlioglu
  • Sound Designer Cem Misirlioglu
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Content Associate Abdallah Ewis
  • See more creators
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Award-winning Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891 and raised in Eatonville, Florida. Eatonville is where Hurston discovers her love of books that would later influence her storytelling. Hurston’s career would allow her to travel the world conducting ethnographic research. Hurston’s career spanned decades with numerous written publications such as Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, theatrical plays, and poetry. She was a staple in the Harlem Renaissance movement.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story that takes us on a journey through a Black woman’s coming-of-age quest for self-discovery to answer her significant questions about life, womanhood, partnership, satisfaction, and happiness. This novel exemplifies the range of the human condition that demonstrates that so much has changed yet has stayed the same. As readers, we see themes such as systemic racism in the criminal justice system, colorism, cycles of death, grief, mourning, and new beginnings. Nature and spirituality are portrayed as major characters in life that can impose and shift the course of our lives without warning.

Since 1975, numerous authors and scholars alike have written about the extraordinary legacy and brilliance of Zora Neale Hurston, the most notable being award-winning author Alice Walker. After Hurston’s death, her work and her unmarked grave were largely hidden from the public consciousness until she was rediscovered by Walker in her article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in Ms. Magazine in 1975, and later renamed “Looking for Zora” in Walker’s acclaimed book, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. Walker’s article and many subsequent publications, interviews, lectures, and panels surrounding Hurston’s legacy would cement Hurston’s position in the larger public consciousness.

In 2005, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions produced an ABC primetime television film adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God directed by Darnell Martin with the teleplay written by Suzan-Lori Parks, Misan Sagay, and Bobby Smith Jr. 

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Tanya Boucicaut
  • Director Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat
  • Narrator Safia Elhillo
  • Animator Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat
  • Composer Cem Misirlioglu
  • Sound Designer Cem Misirlioglu
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Content Associate Abdallah Ewis
  • See more creators