Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

A Stunning New Release from the Timeless Zora Neale Hurston

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

A Stunning New Release from the Timeless Zora Neale Hurston

Article excerpt

A Stunning New Release from the Timeless Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston. Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo". New York: Amistad: HarperCollins Publishers, May 2018. $24.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-274820-1. 208pp.

Reading a never-before-published book by a canonical author is a special event. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) is such a classic author, best-known for Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and Barracoon is this work. This is a non-fiction story of Cudjo, one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade, related in his vernacular. This story was written up when Zora Neale Hurston traveled to Plateau, Alabama (an African-centric community founded by former slaves from the ship Clotilda) in 1927 to interview Cudjo Lewis (originally named Oluale Kossola and born in 1841 to the Yoruba people of West Africa). He recounted the raid that "led to his capture and bondage, fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States." She returned again 1931 and continued their conversation for three months. The title of the book comes from the barracoon Cudjo was held for "selection." Cudjo recounts his capture by the Dahomian warriors, the dangerous journey he took through the Middle Passage, the five years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War, and then his struggles in the Jim Crow South. Since this work was written long before Hurston penned Their Eyes, clearly it had an impact on her imagination and shaped the emotional power of the message in the latter fictional account. Students and professors alike who are writing about the novel, definitely should consider the philosophy and history in Barracoon and how it shaped Hurston's thinking. The research Hurston conducted with Cudjo was sponsored by Dr. Carter G. Woodson (initially intended for his Journal of Negro History), with half of the $1,400 fellowship funds coming from the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and with matching funds from Elsie Clews Parson of the American Folklore Society. The October 1927 issue of the Journal ran "Cudjo's Own Story of the Last African Slaver", a piece that was heavily based on Emma Langdon Roche's Historic Sketches of the South (1914). …

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