Zora Neale Hurston left us a rich legacy of black cultural history through her recordings as an anthropologist of the African American folk narrative, striving to, as she puts it “set down essential truth.” Here in this vital addition to her already known work are interviews documenting Cudjo Lewis’s own story, the last known living African American to arrive on a black slave ship. Because she preserves his original vernacular in writing, it provides us with the rare opportunity to take in Cudjo’s experiences as firsthand observers, giving an account of history so important to America and Africa’s past. Recommended By Aubrey W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A major literary event: a never-before-published work from the author of the American classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God which brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade — illegally smuggled from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.
In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, to interview ninety-five-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation's history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo's firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.
In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo's past — memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilde, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War.
Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo's unique vernacular, and written from Hurston's perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon brilliantly illuminates the tragedy of slavery and one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.
"That Zora Neale Hurston should find and befriend Cudjo Lewis, the last living man with firsthand memory of capture in Africa and captivity in Alabama, is nothing shy of a miracle. Barracoon is a testament to the enormous losses millions of men, women and children endured in both slavery and freedom — a story of urgent relevance to every American, everywhere." Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Life on Mars and Wade in the Water
"Barracoon reinforces what those of us who love Hurston’s work have known all along: her keen intellect and curiosity was only surpassed by her genuine empathy for her subjects. This book is not just an account of one man’s survival in the face of atrocity, it’s a celebration of language and tradition; a clear labor of love." Angela Flournoy, National Book Award Finalist and author of The Turner House
"Barracoon is a powerful, breathtakingly beautiful, and at times, heart wrenching, account of one man’s story, eloquently told in his own language. Zora Neale Hurston gives Kossola control of his narrative — a gift of freedom and humanity." Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun
"Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece." Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple
About the Author
Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. An author of four novels (Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934; Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937; Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939; and Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948); two books of folklore (Mules and Men, 1935, and Tell My Horse, 1938); an autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942); and over fifty short stories, essays, and plays. She attended Howard University, Barnard College and Columbia University, and was a graduate of Barnard College in 1927. She was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, and grew up in Eatonville, Florida. She died in Fort Pierce, in 1960. In 1973, Alice Walker had a headstone placed at her gravesite with this epitaph: "Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South."