New York Times Bestseller • TIME Magazine’s Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 • New York Public Library’s Best Book of 2018 • NPR’s Book Concierge Best Book of 2018 • Economist Book of the Year • SELF.com’s Best Books of 2018 • Audible’s Best of the Year • BookRiot’s Best Audio Books of 2018 • The Atlantic’s Books Briefing: History, Reconsidered • Atlanta Journal Constitution, Best Southern Books 2018 • The Christian Science Monitor’s Best Books 2018 •
“A profound impact on Hurston’s literary legacy.”—New York Times
“One of the greatest writers of our time.”—Toni Morrison
“Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.”—Alice Walker
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Though it's nearly impossible to grasp the suffering that enslaved Africans endured, this unvarnished first-person account brings us closer than we could have imagined. In 1927, author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Cudjo Lewis; he’d been captured in Benin and brought to Alabama in 1860, decades after the U.S. had signed onto the transatlantic human trafficking ban. Hurston transcribed his account in the African-American patois she’d later use in some of her groundbreaking novels. It took nearly a century for Barracoon to be published, but thanks to Hurston's sharp instincts for how Cudjo's story should be told, its significance and poignance are undiminished.
This previously unpublished manuscript from Hurston (1891 1960) is a remarkable account of the life of Kossola, also known as Cudjo Lewis, the last survivor of the last American slave ship. Before writing Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston was working as an anthropologist in 1927 when she traveled to Plateau, Ala., to interview 86-year-old Kossola. Returning to Plateau in 1931 for three months, Hurston documented Kossola's life story in this short manuscript, whose brevity disguises its richness and depth. Consisting primarily of transcriptions from their conversations, Kossola recalls his capture in Africa, the Middle Passage, his five and a half years as a slave, the Civil War, the struggles following Emancipation, and the terrors after Reconstruction (his son was killed by a deputy sheriff in 1902). Kossola was 19 years old when he was sold into slavery; thus, his accounts of folkways and traditions (e.g., the decapitated heads hanging from the belts of the Dahomian warriors who captured him) offer more graphic and personal immediacy than other surviving narratives of the slave trade, like those of Equiano or Gronniosaw, who were small children at the time of their capture. While Hurston acknowledges that her account "makes no attempt to be a scientific document, but on the whole is rather accurate," Kossola's story in the vernacular of his own words is an invaluable addition to American social, cultural, and political history.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Just a piece of advise
Please start reading with the second introduction. The first part of the book is someone writing about what you will read and it spoils it. The second introduction is truly the start of the book and gives you all the background information you need.
Beautifully written. Angelic, necessary.
I finished this book in one day! I usually try to ration out my pages so that I can read a good book over a week (at least) but I could not put this book down! Ms. Neale-Hurston honored this courageous man’s story by writing it just as he told it. Her attention to detail and her loving heart can be felt when turning each page. While Mr. Lewis shares his heartbreaking experience, it shines a light of true perseverance.