Book Review: “Barracoon” by Zora Neale Hurston

barracoonThe practice of slavery is one of our country’s greatest national shames, but it’s still one that I don’t think many people fully grasp. In 1931 renowned author Zora Neale Hurston set out to help us all better understand it by meeting with Cudjo Lewis, the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade, and documenting his story. It doesn’t really touch on the time Cudjo spent as a slave very much, which seems a bit of a shame, but his recollections of his childhood in Africa are fascinating, as are his stories about the life he managed to make for himself after he and the other slaves were granted their freedom. Though slavery itself isn’t mentioned very much, there is still some shocking brutality presented here, especially in the harrowing section describing how he and several of his fellow Africans were captured into it in the first place. And some parts of the story about his life post-slavery can be heartbreaking, but there is also a fair bit of joy in his tale. He suffered through tremendous hardships, but never wanted to give up on life and finding little moments of happiness wherever possible. I don’t know why this book wasn’t published until now, but it is an essential read for anyone interested in learning more about the African experience in America. ★★★★ – Sean Farrell


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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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