Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

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For skeptics who believe that all the archives have long been plundered and all the literary treasures of the past have already been published, Barracoon will be a conversion experience.
-NPR

Synopsis

A major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, 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 masterfully illustrates 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.

 

About Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage remain unparalleled. Her many books include Dust Tracks on a Road; Their Eyes Were Watching God; Jonah's Gourd Vine; Moses, Man of the Mountain; Mules and Men; and Every Tongue Got to Confess.
 
Published May 8, 2018 by Amistad. 208 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on May 27 2018
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Barracoon
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on May 08 2018

For skeptics who believe that all the archives have long been plundered and all the literary treasures of the past have already been published, Barracoon will be a conversion experience.

Read Full Review of Barracoon: The Story of the L... | See more reviews from NPR

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Jean Zimmerman on May 08 2018

Brimming with observational detail from a man whose life spanned continents and eras, the story is at times devastating, but Hurston's success in bringing it to light is a marvel.

Read Full Review of Barracoon: The Story of the L... | See more reviews from NPR
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