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Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Written by Zora Neale Hurston

Narrated by Robin Miles


Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Written by Zora Neale Hurston

Narrated by Robin Miles

ratings:
4.5/5 (206 ratings)
Length:
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 8, 2018
ISBN:
9780062748232
Format:
Audiobook

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Description

A major literary event: a never-before-published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God that brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-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 Clotilda, 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 of 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.

Publisher:
Released:
May 8, 2018
ISBN:
9780062748232
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

EbookSnapshot

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.”  



Reviews

What people think about Barracoon

4.4
206 ratings / 38 Reviews
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Critic reviews

  • This book from the author of "Their Eyes Were Watching God" became one of the biggest literary accomplishments of 2018. Written back in 1927, Zora Neale Hurston tells the true story of Cudjo Lewis, the last living person who'd been brought to America as part of the slave trade. "Barracoon" is an incredibly important source text recalling the horrors of slavery during the era of segregation.

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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Heartbreaking story of the last living slave who could remember his life in Africa. It is short, but take your time reading it. It is easy to skim over important details.
  • (4/5)
    Hurston’s book length interview with the last recorded slave in 1927 is an important addition to the library of slavery in America books. The dialogue spoken by Cudjo Lewis is difficult at first to decipher, but after a few pages, it becomes second nature to the reader. The speech pattern lends credence to the man’s powerful words. His stories are gruesome, so much so, that many readers might want to avoid a meal before sitting down to read it. Any scholar studying slavery in the U.S. would want to put Hurston’s book at the top of his/her list of primary sources.
  • (3/5)
    In 1927 author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston befriended Oluale Kossola (aka Cudjo Lewis), a former slave who had endured the Middle Passage on the Clotilda, the very last ship to make the trek from Africa to America with illegal human cargo. He was just nineteen years old at the time of his enslavement. Freed at the end of the Civil War, he settled in "Africatown" (later known as Plateau, Alabama) with other Clotilda survivors, and married and had children with his beloved wife Seely. But at the time of his friendship with Hurston, he was eighty-six years old and essentially alone in the world. He missed his homeland.Despite the undeniable interest and pathos of the subject matter, Barracoon did not find a publisher during Hurston's lifetime. If it had included more salient facts, perhaps it could have. The main text, which only runs about 112 pages with generous margins, consists of transcripts of the author's conversations with Lewis, in dialect, without the details that would flesh the story out. For example, Lewis's voyage on the slave ship is brushed over in just a few paragraphs. I wish Hurston would have asked more questions. This book is not a fully developed memoir or anthropological case study. Recommended for historical purposes only.
  • (4/5)
    This book will hopefully be featured in classes about African American history and slavery for many years to come, because Oluale Kossola's (also known as Cudjo Lewis) story is both important and rare. A young man of nineteen years old when his tribe was decimated by a rival tribe, he was sold into slavery long after it was declared illegal to do so in the United States (not that that stopped many people, and Kossola's enslavers were never brought to justice and profited handsomely from their kidnapping endeavor). Kossola is able to recall, sometimes in startling detail, the life he had in both Africa and America. There aren't many testimonies from those who survived the Middle Passage, for various reasons. Many Africans were never taught to read or write by their white slavemasters, and there was virtually no interest in recording their experiences. Kossola was quite old when Hurston traveled to speak with him and record his story; it's a wonder that we have this document at all, to be honest. Hurston kept Kossala's dialect intact as best as she was able, which can make the first few pages of Kossola's account a bit difficult to read. Once I got the hang of the dialect, though, I found the book fascinating. The testimony itself is rather short, and I felt like the other essays included in the book were rather dull and didn't add much to the most important part of the book: Kossala's narrative. Be prepared to have your heart broken repeatedly during this book. Kossala's life was full of painful experiences, from his enslavement to losing ALL six of his children and his beloved wife. This is a true testament of this man's endurance and strength. Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    While dialect makes this a more difficult read than some, the telling of one man's experience on one of the final slave ships deserves a reading. Ii found the contrast between the way two brothers treated their slaves enlightening. The story itself will break your heart at times. The appendix with Cudjo's stories and an African game was fascinating.
  • (4/5)
    Deeply moving interviews with man who remembered being kidnapped from his village and sold to the last ship that carried slaves to the U.S. (illegally).