Imagine being captured from your home and transported to unfamiliar territory where you are faced with the option to either be killed or become someone else’s property. What would you do? Well, Zora Neale Hurston, author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God’’ latest book about the last living slave during the middle passage has finally been published. Barracoon: The Story Of The Last “Black Cargo” centers around Hurston’s interviews in 1931 with Cudjo Lewis. Lewis is the last known survivor of the Atlantic Slave Trade. He along with 115 other captives, (because slavery was not a choice) were brought to The United States in 1860 aboard the ship Clotilde. After the Civil War, Lewis and other members of the Clotilde group became free and established a community near Mobile, Alabama. Hurston knew that Lewis’s story must be told however many other people disagreed because they did not want to hear about slavery.
After decades of failed attempts to find a publisher, Hurston’s manuscript of Lewis’ life found a home at Howard University. According to The New York Times, Publishers were unimpressed. One offered to buy it if she rewrote it “in language rather than dialect,” Hurston wrote in a letter to one of her benefactors. She refused, and “Barracoon” was never published. Hurston did not let this hurdle stop her from telling Lewis’s story, in her autobiography “Dust Tracks on a Road,” Hurston wrote, “After 75 years, he still had that tragic sense of loss. That yearning for blood and cultural ties. That sense of mutilation. It gave me something to feel about. “Barracoon” is available to purchase on Amazon.
About Lewis: Lewis was born Kossola or Oluale Kossola around 1840 in West Africa to Oluwale and Fondlolu. During April or May 1860, Lewis was taken prisoner by the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey as part of its raids for slaves.Along with other captives, he was taken to the slaving port of Ouidah and sold to Captain William Foster of the Clotilde, a ship based in Mobile Alamba and owned by businessman Timothy Meaher. Until the end of the Civil War. Lewis and his fellows lived as James Meaher, for whom he worked as a deckhand on a steamer, purchased a slave of Meaher Lewis. During this time he became known as “Cudjo Lewis.” He later explained that he suggested “Cudjo,” a nickname commonly given to boys born on a Monday, as an alternative to his given name when James Meaher had difficulty pronouncing “Kossola.”