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A major literary event: a newly published work from the writer of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of probably the most last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last “Black Cargo” ship to arrive in the US.

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 The united states as slaves, Cudjo was once then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral a part of the nation’s history. Hurston was once 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 once outlawed in the US.

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 main points of his life. All over those weeks, the young author 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 probably the most preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life perpetually 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.

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