“Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.” (Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple )
“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.” (NPR)
“A profound impact on Hurston’s literary legacy.” (New York Times)
“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.” (Lily Rothman, Time)
“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.” (People)
“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.” (Huffington Post)
“[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.” (The Guardian)
“Zora Neale Hurston’s recovered masterpiece, Barracoon, is a stunning addition to several overlapping canons of American literature.” (Tayari Jones, Washington Post)
“Zora Neale Hurston has left an indelible legacy on the literary community and commanded an influential place in Black history.” (Essence)
From the Back Cover
From the author of the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God comes a landmark publication – a never-before-published work of the American experience.
In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston traveled to Plateau, Alabama, to visit eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis, a survivor of the Clotilda, the last slaver known to have made the transatlantic journey. Illegally brought to the United States, Cudjo was enslaved fifty years after the slave trade was outlawed.
At the time, Cudjo was the only person alive who could recount this integral part of the nation’s history. As a cultural anthropologist, Hurston was eager to hear about these experiences firsthand. But the reticent elder didn’t always speak when she came to visit. Sometimes he would tend his garden, repair his fence, or appear lost in his thoughts.
Hurston persisted, though, and during an intense three-month period, she and Cudjo communed over her gifts of peaches and watermelon, and gradually Cudjo, a poetic storyteller, began to share heartrending memories of his childhood in Africa; the attack by female warriors who slaughtered his townspeople; the horrors of being captured and held in the barracoons of Ouidah for selection by American traders; the harrowing ordeal of the Middle Passage aboard the Clotilda as “cargo” with more than one hundred other souls; the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War; and finally his role in the founding of Africatown.
Barracoon employs Hurston’s skills as both an anthropologist and a writer, and brings to life Cudjo’s singular voice, in his vernacular, in a poignant, powerful tribute to the disremembered and the unaccounted. This profound work is an invaluable contribution to our history and culture.