Valerie Boyd, biographer of Zora Neale Hurston, has died at 58

The acclaimed academic and author also edited an upcoming collection of journals by Alice Walker, who called her "one of the best people ever to live."

Valerie Boyd, the renowned academic, editor and author who wrote the acclaimed biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, has died at age 58.

USA Today was among the first outlets to break the news, reporting that Boyd, an associate professor and writer-in-residence at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism died on Saturday of unknown causes. The outlet also noted that Boyd was reportedly battling cancer at the time of her death.

Born in Atlanta in 1963, Boyd attended Northwestern University in Illinois as an undergraduate, later earning a master’s in creative nonfiction writing from Baltimore’s Goucher College. She would go on to become the arts editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as well as co-founding the magazines EightRock and HealthQuest, per USA Today.

While her journalistic influence included bylines at the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, Boyd is likely best known for the 2003 biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. Considered “a notable book” by the American Library Association, the book was also lauded for its extensive research.

Screenshot: The University of Georgia Online Learning (YouTube)

At the time of her death, Boyd was both in progress on the anthology Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic and anticipating the April 12 release of Gathering Blossoms Under Fire, The Journals of Alice Walker 1965-2000.

In a statement issued to USA Today through the book’s publisher Simon & Schuster, Walker praised Boyd’s talent and dedication as well as her previous work on Wrapped in Rainbows, stating:

Valerie Boyd was one of the best people ever to live, which she did as a free being. 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…”

Credit: USA Today

Rest in power, Valerie Boyd.

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