Amistad Books is a division of HarperCollins devoted to books by and about Black people throughout the diaspora. Recently, the division began working with the backlist of acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston who wrote beautiful stories like Their Eyes Were Watching God, Seraph On The Suwanee, Dust Tracks on a Road, and many more.
To give Hurston's brilliant work the global level of prestige that she is so deserving of, Judith Curr, HarperOne Group publisher, and Tracy Sherrod, Amistad's editorial director, worked to repackage each book with ten artists of color to bring the covers to life. Each artist, including Toyin Ojih Odutola, Jeff Manning, and Jamilla Okubo, chose a book that most resonated with them and then explored visuals from the writings to design a gorgeous representation.
The front covers feature a unique, inspired design by the artist, and the back cover features an original portrait of Zora Neale Hurston. Samira Addo designed The Complete Stories, and the cover features a painting of a woman representing Hurston. The colors are muted and deep, and the pop of pink on the back highlights the portrait line drawing. Jamilla Okubo designed Moses, Man of the Mountain, and the cover is bound to stand out on a shelf with its bright blues, greens, and yellows in combination with the black silhouetted forms. The patterns seen within the mountains add a rich character, and the portrait of Hurston on the back pulls in the textures through her dress and within the frame.
Charly Palmer’s cover for Mule Bone is eclectic with a collage featuring the characters and themes within. The colors are bright, vivid, and cheery. The portrait of Hurston on the back of Mule Life is in a similar style yet distinct enough that it serves as its own piece of art. The colors on the back contrast and compliment the colors on the front in a magical way.
The books also incorporate artists' notes on their experience reading Zora and what being a part of the project means to them. Jerome Lagarrigue designed the cover for Dust Tracks on a Road, stating, “It was after listening to a recording of Zora Neale Hurston speaking and singing ‘Halimuhfack’ that I painted this portrait. Her melodic voice and rhythmic cadence put me in mind of warm colors, specifically warm pinks and browns. I see painting as another form of language where brush strokes set the tone and color exists as words.”
The collection of covers is an excellent way to pay tribute to the famous author and shows how books and fine writing can inspire art and remarkably different ways of thinking. The depths of Hurston's words are brought to life in each of the cover designs and leaves a lasting legacy on the shelves.
Toyin Ojih Odutola: Tell My Horse
Jerome Lagarrigue: Dust Tracks on a Road
Patrick Dougher: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Diana Ejaita: Mules and Men
Jeff Manning: Jonah’s Gourd Vine
Samira Addo: The Complete Stories
Terry Lynn: Every Tongue Got to Confess
Charly Palmer: Mule Bone
Jamilla Okubo: Moses, Man of the Mountain
Tizta Berhanu: Seraph on the Suwanee