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Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  10,620 ratings  ·  1,770 reviews
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 Ca ...more
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Amistad (first published April 24th 2018)
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Gwen Berndt Sojdelius There’s one full length photo of Cudjo Kewis/Oluale Kossula inside the book. His portrait (face and upper body) is on the cover.
Resa Try the Simply E app if your library supports it.

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4.06  · 
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 ·  10,620 ratings  ·  1,770 reviews

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Will Byrnes
“…I want to ask you many things. I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?”…when he lifted his wet face again he murmured, Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go to tell everybody whut Cudjo says, and how I come to Americky soil since de 1859 and never see my people no mo’. “

Barracoon - An enclosure in which bla
Petra Eggs
This book was suppressed for over 70 years because the myth of poor, exploited Africans capturing and selling their countrymen to the evil white slavers suited America with their collective guilt and wish not to offend African-Americans further. But you cannot build a house on shifting sands, and this book, by one of America's absolute top journalists of the era, provides part of the missing foundation.

I read it at more or less the same time as the very genial Michael W. Twitty's The Cooking Gen
“All these words from the seller, but not one word from the sold.”

Here, Zora Neale Hurston expresses why she wrote this book.

I have had difficulty rating this book. That the book has now finally come to be published IS of course wonderful. It should have been published decades and decades ago!

BUT, but, but… I do have some complaints with the final product.

Only half of this book is in fact Cudjo Lewis' story, his story, told by him. Zora Neale Hurston was absolutely right in demanding that his vo
I have thought long and hard on this and I do not feel like I can give this any formal review. This is a case in which I feel I would be trespassing on the author’s words, and by this I mean Kossulo’s, by superimposing any thoughts of my own. There are pieces of history we will never get back. For many of us, this is why we write: to re-imagine the stories of slavery, for instance, because we do not have words to tell us. This is a living, breathing document and should be treated as such. Just l ...more
Diane S ☔
I chose to listen to this in audio book form, and think it was a great way to hear Cudjos story. The narrator does a fantastic job with the dislect and I felt like I was there hearing Cudjo speak his own story. The last cargo of slaves brought here, at an age, eighteen I believe, that would allow him to remember his life in Africa, and when he was taken. Heartbreaking. Was interesting hearing about his life in Africa, strange of course to my American ears, but that is what it was.

What I didn't l
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Though the United States passed the 'Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807', boats continued to deliver abducted Africans to America for more than 50 years. The last shipment of slaves arrived in Alabama on the ship 'Clotilda' in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War.

One of the African men on the Clotilda was Oluale Kossula, also known as Cudjo Lewis, who survived five years of slavery, became a free man, and helped found the black enclave of 'Africatown' (or 'Plateau') near Mobile, Alabama.
How to rate and review a book that has no real comparison or companion, that has been my quandary since finishing Barracoon. The rating is for the very fact of its existence, for Zora Neale Hurston’s truly wonderful and difficult work of taking down Cudjo Lewis’s story of childhood, capture, sale to slavers, and transport across the Atlantic on the last slave ship to reach the United States in 1859, and of his life after the freedom granted during the Civil War up to the 1920s.

As Kossula (Cudjo
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“We cry ’cause we slave. In night time we cry, we say we born and raised to be free people and now we slave. We doan know why we be bring ’way from our country to work lak dis. It strange to us."

Well, what to say.... I'm ambivalent about this one. The part Zora Neale Hurston actually wrote is beautiful and raw and touching. In 1927, she interviewed Kossula (Cudjo Lewis), then 86 years old, who was one of the last black slaves brought to America. He, along with 100-some others, was smuggled int
Heidi The Reader
Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Oluale Kossola before he died in the 1930's to create this first-person narrative by one of the last people to be transported to the United States through the middle passage. It is interesting in that, among the existing records of that period in time, it is written from the perspective of someone who lived slavery rather than perpetuated it. It wasn't written with an agenda. It is a record of a history.

It is a story of a culture and a life lived far from home and
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-publisher
I was deeply engrossed in this slave narrative based on Hurston's interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the presumed last living African held captive and taken to America to become a slave in 1860. While the work is heavily prefaced with discourse on Hurston's process of coming into the writing of this novel (and claims of plagiarism), Cudjo's story itself is only 94 pages. The tail end of the book contains an extensive appendix with stories, endnotes, and other items pertinent to the work.

Emotionally, I
Books about Slavery and WWII are my jam. I've read a lot about slavery. I think this maybe the reason I didn't love or enjoy Barracoon. It's definitely not what I thought it would be. The narration was great and I actually couldn't imagine reading it with the vernacular of Cudjo Lewis. Is this a great introductory read? I think so. It just wasn't for me. I found nothing new here.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Kossulo’s story is touching and heartbreaking. I felt as if I was sitting there with him and he was personally telling me his story. There isn't much that needs to be said, go read it.
The hard task here is to remain impartial in regarding this book.  To be able to take the book as it is without considering the great historical reference and the gravitas of the writer Zora Neale Hurston.  Is it possible to separate how/what to ingest was written from the people who both wrote and were written about?  I don’t know.  The publication of Barracoon was a huge literary event. 

I do think it was a very interesting discussion of the life of a man billed as the last "Black Cargo". What
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and heartbreaking, Kossula relates his traumatic experience in his youth of his village being slaughtered and he and other youths being sent into slavery in the US. Zora Neale Hurston spends many days listening to Kossula's stories, and other days letting the man simply get on with his chores as she gained his trust.
The "interview" section of the book is prefaced by some background on Hurston's reasons for engaging Kossula, as well as Hurston's ambivalence to the academic approach. A
Betsy Robinson
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short book—171 pages and a lot of that is front and back matter (I didn’t read much of this)—but the pain and trauma-on-top-of-trauma quotient is so high it takes a while to read in whatever spurts you can tolerate. It is the life story of Kossola, the last living slave abducted from Africa after other Africans plundered his village, brutally beheading people, to catch human beings to sell to the thriving but illegal slave trade. “Barracoon” is the word for the barracks the captives we ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Slave narratives
Check out my review here:
Clif Hostetler
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Barracoon is an interview record of the memories of Cudjo Lewis who is believed to be the last living person captured in Africa and brought to America on a slave ship. Lewis was captured in 1859 by Dahomey warriors, sold to American slavers, and illegally shipped to Mobile, Alabama (importing slaves to the USA had been outlawed in 1809). He was 19 years old when captured and was approximately 91 years old when interviewed in 1931.

He recounts how his village was wiped out by the Dahomey warriors
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cudjo Lewis's life story is important. He was brought to America illegally, at the tail end of slavery. His owners kept him and his shipmate slaves "secret" between them, using their labours for about 6 years before slavery was abolished. These people were then abandoned to a life in America, a place they did not see as home, with no way back to the home they wanted to return to.
Free life in America was hard on African-born freed slaves. They were shunned, it seems, by both White & Black Am
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His name was Kossola, but he was called Cudjo Lewis. He was the last surviving African of the last American slaver-the Clotilda

Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’ is a previously unpublished work by author Zora Neale Hurston. Although she is best known for her works of fiction, in this book, she writes ‘as a cultural anthropologist, ethnographer, and folklorist’. In 1927, Hurston spent three months in Plateau, Alabama interviewing Cudjo Lewis, 90, the last known survivor of the Atlant
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are some who’ll choose to lock-in on the accuracy of the text: how much of the story was embellished, or helped along, by Hurston? While others will focus on the parts that were “plagiarized”—choosing to center in on how legitimate the story can be if its author didn’t concern herself with the due diligence of citing whose works she chose to use.

To me, none of that matters.

It’s irrelevant and petty to even address the how of this work, as it only stands to negate (and belittle) the impor
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important and fascinating historical document. It is rare that we have a narrative of one who remembers and recounts the journey from Africa to America, from free person to enslaved man. So, Zora Neale Hurston writing and working as a folklorist and cultural anthropologist took interest in the story of Kossula, the last surviving individual from the last slaving ship that touched down in Alabama in 1860, the Clotilda.

Here we have the remembrances from the perspective of the captive.
Renée | Book Girl Magic
Barracoon was my most anticipated read of 2018 and I can't believe that the time for the books release has finally arrived. This book and story was absolutely incredible and left me with so many thoughts and feelings.

In Hurston's introduction she states, "All these words from the seller, but not one word from the sold. The Kings and Captains whose words move ships. But not one word from the cargo. The thoughts of the 'black ivory', the 'coin of Africa', had no market value. Africa's ambassadors
While Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is a deeply loved masterpiece, many people do not know about her work collecting oral folklore and oral history. It is okay that we have the rediscovery/recovery of this manuscript to add to her important work in such areas.

Hurston visited Cudjo Lewis several times. Lewis was kidnapped from his home in West Africa and taken to the USA; this occurred after the Atlantic slave was outlawed, so he was pirated human cargo, in modern parlance he was a vict
Sue K H
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this for Cudjo, I loved this for Zora Neale Hurston, and I loved it for its historical significance. It's a shame that it wasn't published until now. Cudjo's harrowing story of being sold by his own countrymen into the slavery of white men on another continent, is amazing in its lack of bitterness. His and Hurston's love shines through in this unique and tragic account.

I'm obsessed with Hurston and must make my way through all of her available writings. I loved the introduction and the
Scott  Hitchcock

Parts of this only a sociologist could enjoy and the other parts were obtuse. It really didn't give the feeling of what it was like being stolen/sold from Africa and the experience of freedom lost.
Stephanie Anze
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"All these words from the seller, but not one word from the sold."

Cudjo Kossola Lewis was a young man when his village was raided, in 1860, and he (along with several others) was taken to be sold. Bought by William Foster, captain of the Clotilda slave ship, Kossola made a lengthy trip to Alabama. For over five years, Kossola (whom was given the name of Cudjo) was a slave. In the late 1920's, Zora Neale Hurston (not yet a renowned author) traveled to Alabama to meet Kossola and write his story.
♥ Sandi ❣
3.5 stars

Very interesting little book. This is the story, told in Cudjo Lewis' voice, of his abduction and trip, from Africa to America, and his time as a slave. Cudjo - his American name - also known throughout the book by his African name - Kossola, relates how he was abducted, his trip on the seas, his enslavement and in his later years, his freedom. This is told in his verbiage, and may be difficult to read, until you get acquainted with his rhythm and words.

Although the book is small in siz
It blows my mind that this wasn't published when the author was alive. It saddens my heart greatly that it wasn't published in the subject's lifetime. To have the narrative of a former slave from the last slave ship to America is important. To have that narrative from a man that was nineteen when he was transported to America from Africa and was still a young man when he was freed after 5-1/2 years as a slave is unique. Middle Passage accounts from a slave's point-of-view are rare.

A publisher w
Taryn Pierson
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a vital historical artifact.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: release-2018
4 ☆ Cudjo Lewis (Oluale Kossola) is the last known living African held captive on the last black cargo ship sold as a slave in Alabama, 1860. He was only 19 years old when taken from his tribe.
This RARE narrative shows Kossola’s desperate longing to return to his native land and his family. It talks about his time as a slave and the Civil War era finally bringing his freedom, and earlier stories of his youth + tribe, his capture and what happened to his people when attacked by the warring tribe
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Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and author. In 1925, shortly before entering Barnard College, Hurston became one of the leaders of the literary renaissance happening in Harlem, producing the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! along with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. This literary movement became the center of the Harlem Renaissance.

Hurston applied her Barnard ethnographic tr
“We Afficans try raise our chillun right. When dey say we ign’nant we go together and build de school house. Den de county send us a teacher. We Afficky men doan wait lak de other colored people till de white folks gittee ready to build us a school. We build one for ourself den astee de county to send us de teacher.” 4 likes
“All these words from the seller, but not one word from the sold. The Kings and Captains whose words moved ships. But not one word from the cargo. The thoughts of the “black ivory,” the “coin of Africa,” had no market value. Africa’s ambassadors to the New World have come and worked and died, and left their spoor, but no recorded thought.” 3 likes
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