Barracoon (audiobook)

The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”

Edited and introduction by Deborah G. Plant
Read by Robin Miles
3.8 hrs • 3 CDs• 1 MP3 CD • Unabridged
Nonfiction/Social Science
Target Audience: Adult
Release Date: 05/08/18
Library CD Library Edition CD titles are packaged in an attractive, full-sized, durable vinyl case with full color art. Cloth Sleeves keep compact discs protected and in numerical order. 
- 05/08/18 9781538519288
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MP3 CD MP3-CDs: Come in a durable vinyl case similar to a dvd case. An index of contents and tracking information are included within the Mp3-CD format. MP3's can be played on any compatible CD player 
- 05/08/18 9781538519301
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A major literary event

A never-before-published work from the author of the American classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade—illegally smuggled from Africa on the last “black cargo” ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, to interview ninety-five-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was 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 outlawed in the United States.

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 details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer 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 Clotilde, 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 one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon brilliantly illuminates the tragedy of slavery and one life forever 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.

Review Quotes

“Capturing the dialect, accent, and intonation of Cudjo Lewis, then living in Alabama, presents a challenging task for narrator Robin Miles, who must deliver one of the integral aspects of Hurston’s work: a reconstruction of Lewis’ African and Southern accents. Miles’ rendition is well done, with clear, deliberate diction that places appropriate emphasis on Lewis’ emotional reactions. Also included is an introduction to Hurston’s work. Traditional music at transition points sets the mood of the rural South. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


“Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.”

Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

“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.”


“An impactful story that will stick with you long after the final page.”


“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

“The details he shared with Hurston are indelible…[In] Hurston’s attentive gaze [there is] not restitution but the consolations of kinship and witness.”

New York Times Book Review

“In the account that Huston records, Kosssula spends more time lamenting the families he lost, both in Africa and the United States, than he does praising the communities he helped make…Kossula’s story reminds us that Emancipation did not end those assaults on the communities and families of African Americans but rather enabled their continuation through other means.”


“A man who lived across one century and two continents, Kossola’s life was marked, repeatedly and relentlessly, by loss: of his homeland, of his humanity, of his given names, of his family. For decades, his full story, from his perspective and in his voice, was also lost, but with the publication of Barracoon, it is rightfully restored.”


“Hurston’s recovered masterpiece, Barracoon, is a stunning addition to several overlapping canons of American literature…[Hurston] makes herself almost invisible in this book, dedicating entire chapters to Kossola’s monologues, with few authorial interventions.”

Washington Post

“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.”


“Barracoon is a testament to [Zora’s] patient fieldwork.”


“A remarkable account…whose brevity disguises its richness and depth…Kossola (aka Cudjo)…was nineteen years old when he was sold into slavery; thus, his accounts of folkways and traditions offer more graphic and personal immediacy than other surviving narratives of the slave trade…Kossola’s story—in the vernacular of his own words—is an invaluable addition to American social, cultural, and political history.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Hurston] was determined to present Kossola’s story in as authentic a manner as possible. That authenticity includes rendering his words in patois…That mark of the griot, or West African traditional storyteller, is evident as Kossola recounts moments of resistance…We are fortunate to have this late work of Hurston’s, which is sure to be widely read.

Kirkus Reviews

“This is a rare account of the full experience of enslavement from capture to ‘freedom’ and a revealing look at Hurston’s maturing as a folklorist.”

Library Journal

“A testament to the enormous losses millions of men, women, and children endured in both slavery and freedom—a story of urgent relevance to every American, everywhere.”

Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize–winning author