Book review: Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston’s recovered masterpiece, “Barracoon,” is a stunning addition to several overlapping canons of American literature. Available now in this handsome edition with a foreword by Alice Walker, it joins a small body of firsthand accounts of the transatlantic slave trade while providing a new glimpse into the life of Hurston as an anthropologist. The book also offers an unnerving interrogation of modern conceptions of the earliest African Americans.

At the story’s center is Oluale Kossula, also known as Cudjo Lewis. He was one of the last survivors of the Clotilda, the last vessel to carry kidnapped Africans into a life of bondage in the United States — 50 years after the slave trade was officially abolished. In 1927, Hurston made the first of several journeys to…

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