Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

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    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.

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      Zora Neale Hurston is a hero of mine, as an anthropologist. I am trying to make increasing room for her in my classes, or at least to make sure students know her name. Anthropology is WAY too white a discipline, and sadly, still very male. As feminist anthropologists have noted, Hurston was ahead of her time in her writing style, which weaves the personal with the observational. In allowing Olulue Kossola (Cudjo Kewis) to tell his story, this book offers a window into the African experience in America (as distinct from the African-American experience). At the same time, it offers a window into the practice of ethnography, of an anthropologist coming to know her interlocutor, and vice versa. So much of ethnographic research involves giving people rides, helping them with daily chores, bringing them peaches and melons, sharing meals with them—to say nothing of laughing, crying, and being silent together. I loved and appreciated the glimpses of the profound mundanity that Hurston offers her readers. These are, after all, the stuff of human life. on 14th Jun 2018

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    Author: Zora Neale Hurston
    ISBN-10: 0062748203
    Pages: 208
    Publisher: Amistad Press
    Publication Date: May 08, 2018
    Binding: Hardcover
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