Valerie Boyd, Zora Neale Hurston biographer, dies at 58

Valerie Boyd
Valerie Boyd wrote “Wrapped in Rainbows,” a well-regarded biography of the author Zora Neale Hurston.
(Andrea Ferreira)

Valerie Boyd, author of a well-regarded biography of Zora Neale Hurston and editor of an upcoming collection of author Alice Walker’s journals, has died at age 58.

Publisher Simon & Schuster announced that she died Saturday, while declining to cite a cause. (Boyd had been battling cancer.) She was an associate professor and writer in residence at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia.

Boyd was a former arts editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution whose “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston” was published in 2003 and praised by the New York Times for its “painstaking and thorough” research. It was also named a notable book by the American Library Assn.

Simon & Schuster will publish “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker 1965-2000” on April 12.

Alice Walker profiled on ‘American Masters’

Jan. 29, 2014


“Valerie Boyd was one of the best people ever to live, which she did as a free being,” Walker said in a statement issued through Simon & Schuster. “Even though illness was stalking her the past several years, she accompanied me in gathering, transcribing and editing my journals.

“This was a major feat, a huge act of love and solidarity, of sisterhood, of soul generosity and shared joy, for which she will be remembered; as she will be remembered with immense gratitude for her extraordinary biography ‘Wrapped in Rainbows’ of our revered and irrepressible Medicine Ancestor, Zora Neale Hurston.”

Boyd was a native of Atlanta who studied as an undergraduate at Northwestern University and received a master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College. Her articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post among other publications and she helped found the magazines EightRock and HealthQuest.

At the time of her death, she was working on the anthology “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.”

She died a pauper, buried in an unmarked grave.

April 7, 1991