Barracoon: A “New” Novel Sharing A Former Slave’s First-Hand Story

Earlier this week a “new” book, written by legendary author, Zora Neale Hurston was released.

Zora Neale Hurston via. Vulture

By “new” we mean that the book, titled Barracoon: The Story of The Last Black Cargo, was written over 80 years ago by Hurston but was rejected by publishers due to the vernacular in the book being viewed as “too Black” and Hurston refusing to change it, to main the work’s authenticity in relation to how the book’s subject actually spoke. The novel has now been published through Amistad which is a HarperCollins’ imprint.

Barracoon is based on Zora’s conversations with Oluale Kossola, a former slave in Alabama, who was recognized as the last living survivor of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Oluale’s slave name was Cudjo Lewis and he was kidnapped from his village in modern-day Benin as a teenager and brought to Alabama on the Clotilda, which is thought to have been the last ship used for the transatlantic slave trade. In Alabama, he was forced into slavery for some years until the end of the civil war. When freed he wanted to return to Africa but was unable to, so he then helped to establish an Africatown in Alabama. The timing for the release of this novel is particularly important in my opinion, when thinking of the increase in continental Africans speaking on slavery in a derogatory, victim blaming manner via social media, along with the current racial climate. The release of this novel helps to remind us that slavery wasn’t just some far away thing that happened, while further humanizing its victims. This book will definitely be on the top of my summer reading list, find out more information on Barracoon here.

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