Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" (Hardcover)

Barracoon: The Story of the Last
By Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker (Foreword by), Deborah G. Plant (Introduction by)
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New York Times Bestseller

“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.

Praise For…


“One of the greatest writers of our time.”

“Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.”

“Short enough to be read in a single sitting, this book is one of those gorgeous, much too fleeting things...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.”

“A man who lived across one century and two continents, Kossola’s life was marked, repeatedly and relentlessly, by loss: of his homeland, of his humanity, of his given names, of his family. For decades, his full story, from his perspective and in his voice, was also lost, but with the publication of Barracoon, it is rightfully restored.”

“A profound impact on Hurston’s literary legacy.”

“Hurston returned several times, aiming to write a book about the man–called Kossola, with a variety of spellings, or Cudjo Lewis–but never found an interested publisher. Even as she became an esteemed writer, his story stuck with her. His yearning for home, undimmed by time, was wedged in her mind. Now, about 90 years later, the book she had wanted, a nonfiction account of her interaction with a man who lived a vanishing history, has finally been released with great fanfare as Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.””

“With its historically valuable first-hand account of slavery and freedom, Barracoon speaks straight to the 21st-century world into which it has emerged—almost a century after it was written.”

“Though both Hurston and Lewis are long gone, Hurston’s account of the former slave’s life serves as a timely reminder of our shared humanity—and the consequences that can occur if we forget it.”

“Barracoon and its long path to print is a testament to Zora’s singular vision amid so many competing pressures that continue to put us at war with ourselves.”

“[Barracoon’s] belated publication of her phonetic transcription offers spine-chilling access to one of modernity’s great crimes, an atrocity that, when described by a victim, suddenly becomes far less distant.”

“Zora Neale Hurston’s recovered masterpiece, Barracoon, is a stunning addition to several overlapping canons of American literature.”

“Zora Neale Hurston has left an indelible legacy on the literary community and commanded an influential place in Black history.”

“A posthumously-released work of acclaimed Harlem Renaissance-era writer Zora Neale Hurston offers a chilling firsthand look at the horrors of the slave trade.”

“An invaluable addition to American social, cultural, and political history.”

“Sure to be widely read.”

“Barracoon is a testament to [Zora’s] patient fieldwork”

Barracoon is an impactful story that will stick with you long after the final page.”

“A profound work that shows a writer in the process of gathering a landmark story.”

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. It completely reinforces for me the fact that Zora Neale Hurston was both a cultural anthropologist and a truly gifted, and compassionate storyteller, who sat in the sometimes painful silence with Kossola and the depth and breadth of memory as a slave. Such is a narrative filled with emotions and histories bursting at the intricately woven seams.”

“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.”

Barracoon is a piece of the puzzle we didn’t know we were missing. Ms. Zora has captured through the lens of Cudjo Lewis a glimpse into what the slave trade, Middle Passage, and first steps onto American soil meant for millions. The narrative of Cudjo reminds us of the faith and hope that got us here despite it all.”

Barracoon is a piece of the puzzle we didn’t know we were missing. Ms. Zora has captured through the lens of Cudjo Lewis a glimpse into what the slave trade, Middle Passage, and first steps onto American soil meant for millions. The narrative of Cudjo reminds us of the faith and hope that got us here despite it all.”

“[Zora’s] newly published book, released for the first time 87 years after it was written, will shed new light on the author as a historical chronicler.”


Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062748201
ISBN-10: 0062748203
Publisher: Amistad
Publication Date: May 8th, 2018
Pages: 208
Language: English