[Hurston] used the loan of a camera to photograph fifteen reels of film preserving the heritage of southern African-American culture. Of these reels, only nine are known to have survived and contain black & white, occasionally grainy footage capturing children at play, a baptism in a river, a logging camp, and footage of octogenarian Cudjo Lewis, the final survivor from The Clotilde, the last arriving slave ship to America (in 1859). No intertitles are presented with these clips, although the musical accompaniment is comprised of spirituals and bluegrass music.Travel expenses and the cost of the camera were provided by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy and controversial patron of Hurston, Langston Hughes, and the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias. Mason also funded the research behind Hurston’s first work of nonfiction Mules and Men (1935). The University of Virginia Crossroads website offers additional insights into this troublesome patron–artist relationship as well as additional material about the creation of Mules and Men.
The Library of America volume Zora Neale Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings includes the complete text of Mules and Men and features the original illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias.
Other related LOA works: Zora Neale Hurston: Novels and Stories; True Crime: An American Anthology (includes Hurston's "The Trial of Ruby McCollum")