Zora Neale Hurston’s third published short story, “Spunk” (1925), helped launch her career as a fiction writer. She had already established herself as an ethnographer and folklorist, having been the first Black student to study anthropology at Columbia University in New York City. The following year, “Spunk” was published in the prestigious Opportunity, A Journal of Negro Life, and her literary career was off and running.
“Spunk” won second place in Opportunity’s fiction writing contest that year. At the awards dinner on May 1, 1925, Zora also won second place in the drama category for her play, Color Struck, plus two honorable mentions. These early successes helped assure Zora’s place as a writer in the creative world of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Read More→
Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935) used her poetry, essays, and short stories to confront complex issues of being a multiracial woman in America. Active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she grappled with the feeling of non-belonging to one racial community nor the other. “Brass Ankles Speaks” is an essay she wrote, undated, presumably in the early 1900s. It was never published during her lifetime.
Despite her personal struggles, Alice Dunbar-Nelson devoted her life to fighting for social and racial justice and women’s equality not only through her writing, but as an activist and speaker. Read More→
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin (1850 – 1904) is a short story that was originally published on December 6, 1894 in Vogue magazine under the title “The Dream of an Hour.” This story, which appeared in St. Louis Life the following year as “The Story of an Hour,” has been much anthologized and is still studied. Like Chopin’s best-known work, the 1899 novella The Awakening, this story was controversial when it first appeared.
The story’s main character, Louise Mallard, who has a weak heart, learns that her husband has died in an accident. The hour referred to in the title is the time that elapses after she receives this news. At first, Louise collapses into her sister’s arms, but then, when she is alone with her thoughts, she whispers, “Free! Body and soul free!” Rather than feeling devastated, she feels quite liberated. Read More→
A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell (1876 – 1948), a 1917 short story, is arguably this American author’s most enduring work. Certainly, it’s one of her most anthologized. It grew from her 1916 one-act play, Trifles (you can also read the full text of Trifles here), also a widely anthologized work.
Both Trifles and A Jury of Her Peers were inspired by a true crime story that Glaspell covered as a reporter for theDes Moines Daily News in 1900. The murder of John Hossack, a 59-year-old Iowa farmer, was a local sensation because the suspect was his wife Margaret. Because it was suspected that Mrs. Hossack was abused by her husband, it was also assumed that she had motive, and so she was arrested and charged. Read More→
Trifles is a 1916 one-act play by the American author and playwright Susan Glaspell (1876 – 1948). It’s one of her most anthologized works, along with the 1917 short story she based upon this play, A Jury of Her Peers. Trifles was first performed at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown Massachusetts in August of 1916. The author herself performed as Mrs. Hale, the wife of a neighboring farmer.
Glaspell’s inspiration was the true crime story of the murder of John Hossack, a 59-year-old farmer. Working as a journalist at the time of the incident in 1900, Glaspell covered it for the Des Moines Daily News. The case was a sensation, because Hossack’s wife Margaret was accused of killing him. Neighbors believed that Margaret Hossack was an abused wife, and thus, she was the object of suspicion. Read More→