The Story of the Last "black Cargo"

Book - 2018
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062748201
Branch Call Number: 306.36209 L5856H 2018
Characteristics: xxviii, 171 pages : illustration ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Plant, Deborah G. 1956-
Walker, Alice


From Library Staff

Not published until 2018, Cudjo Lewis, the last known survivor of the slave ship Clotilda, was interviewed by Hurston in 1927 and again in 1931. Hurston brilliantly illuminates the tragedy of slavery and one life forever defined by it and offers insight into the legacy that continues to haunt us... Read More »

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JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jan 20, 2019

Powerful and Important. So grateful Ms. Hurston has the forethought to compile this history....even if it’s taken this long for it to be published.

Dec 04, 2018

Its awkward to comment on the book, since its written in a way that transcribes the manner of speech of Kossula (Cudjo Lewis) to indicate his accent, but it him sound like he was retarded. The table of contents is a bit misleading for the chapter relating his enslavement, sale, and transportation is labelled 'barracoon' and his early experiences in America is labelled as 'slavery'. There was relatively little about his life and society prior to his enslavement. Navigating the notes was a little awkward because the edges of the pages are not flat and there is so much back matter. The appendix was very interesting.

Nov 21, 2018

It felt like I was reading a "missing link" account as Hurston interviewed a former slave in 1927, who was old enough to remember his life in Africa before being captured as a teenager and sold to slave traders, on the very last slave ship to the USA. I am so grateful that Hurston refused the publisher's demand in the 1930s to re-write the dialect into current English. The result is that we, 90 years later, are able to "hear" the anguish in the authentic voice of a former slave. What a prize account this is.
The slave, Cudjo Lewis, tells his story his own way, despite Hurston wanting to set the direction with her questions. Such a heart-breaking story he tells, and so important for all to know.

Nov 20, 2018

Alice Walker, Zora Neal Harris..... do I really need to say much more than this? Excellent Read!

PimaLib_AngelaH Oct 26, 2018

This previously unpublished book should have been published 87 years ago but wasn’t until now. Zora Neale Hurston took interest in Cudjo, the last living survivor of the last cargo ship in 1860 when slave trade was illegal.

In 1927, Cudjo (Koussla is his African name) was pleased and grateful that someone would take interest in writing his story and over a 3 month period, shared with Zora his history.
Zora is a great writer and folklorist who took the position as a cultural anthropologist and recorded his story in the purest form. It is written in a way that is true to him, in his dialect, which at first I found hard to catch its meaning and rhythm. However, with good writing, similar to all good music, one can find and understand the rhythm, meaning and nuances quickly.

Koussla takes us from being taken from his home as a survivor of a brutal massacre, to spending 3 weeks in a primitive holding place for slaves called “barracoons”, to 45 days across a vast ocean, to landing on US soil. Then Koussla and other captives run and hid in swamps in desolate places until the slave master places him in Alabama to work as a slave, then eventually becomes free. But not free to return home.

He is an aged man when being interviewed but his mind is sharp. At times, he weeps or becomes so lost in memories that he stares off and is unable to speak.

This is not only a firsthand account of the brutality of slavery but also the deep pain of being taken away from your home, family, everything you knew and will never see again. A longing that would never go away.

I highly recommend this book although difficult and painful. It is a testament to the strength and character of one, yet many, who have been through much but remains free from bitterness.

Sep 20, 2018

"All these words from the seller, but not one word from the sold."
Remarkable document that was written in 1931 but only recently published. Zora Neale Hurston, best known for her novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God," went to Alabama to interview Cudjo Lewis, who had been abducted from his home in Africa and sold into slavery. He has a remarkable memory and Hurston presents his account, giving voice to the the millions who were silenced. Presented as a scholarly work, there are notes, appendixes, and introduction, and a forward by Alice Walker, all of which help give it context. A major rediscovery.

Aug 11, 2018

Although brief, the interview with Cudjo Lewis on his life in Africa, capture, passage across the Atlantic, bondage, and later freedom is priceless. The interview allows the persona of Cudjo Lewis to come forth. The introduction held lesser value for me. But the appendix with assorted stories related by Cudjo Lewis was welcome.

JCLJessecaB Jun 13, 2018

"Barracoon" is the result of a collection of interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade, as interviewed by Zora Neale Hurston (best known for "Their Eyes Were Watching God.") Lewis' memories of his home country, enslavement, and life after slavery are fascinating and oftentimes heart-wrenching to read. I appreciated learning more about the slave trade from a slave's perspective, as well as learning what his family's life was like after eventually being freed (even though slavery had been outlawed in the US for about 50 years). "Barracoon" also provides a wonderful introduction by Alice Walker, as well as many notes and appendices for historical information.

Jun 05, 2018



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