Firsthand Account of Atlantic Slave Trade by Last Known Captive to be Published in Book by Zora Neale Hurston

zora-neale-hurston Barracoon

Literary legend Zora Neale Hurston has a posthumous book on the way and it’s certainly one we’ll all want to get our hands on. Sometime during the 1930s she located and interviewed Cudjo Lewis, the last surviving captive who was aboard the last slave ship from Africa to America. The interviews, which predate the writing of Zora’s celebrated Their Eyes Were Watching God, will finally be published in a book titled Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” and has a release date set for May 8th.

Hurston’s book tells the first-hand account of Lewis’ traumatic capture from his West African, home country Benin (formerly Kossula) by a neighboring tribe who took him to the coast where he was sold into slavery alongside 120 others. In 1860, 50 years after slave trading was ruled illegal and 1 year before the Civil War, the Clotilda ship arrived to Alabama before being burned to ruins on the banks of Mobile-Tensaw Delta so that no evidence of the captors’ crimes remained.

Aside from the dehumanizing conditions of Atlantic slave trade passage, Cudjo Lewis and the others were forced to hide – for days at a time – in swamps before being separated and transported to different plantations. In these interviews, Lewis not only recalls his capture and involuntary relocation, but what it was like to arrive at a plantation where no one spoke his language, the disappointment that came with receiving no reparations, and the making of Africatown near Mobile.

With so much of our academic history books tiptoeing around the reality of slavery, and with so much of today’s art romanticizing the events surround human theft, Barracoon is going to undoubtedly be a must-read keeper. You can preorder the book now at Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Cover Photo of Cudjo Lewis by Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

 

 

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