30 Oct / Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston [in Library Journal]
Versatile, seasoned narrator Robin Miles is as comfortable narrating literary historic context as she is effortlessly adopting the vernacular patois of an octogenarian former slave. Published almost 90 years after its completion, Zora Neale Hurston’s (Their Eyes Were Watching God) presentation of Oluale Kossula, the last survivor of the final U.S. slave ship Clotilda — “as told my himself”— appears now with an illuminating introduction by scholar Deborah G. Plant.
Kossula was enslaved in 1860 at 19 for five years and renamed Cudjo Lewis; his experiences after emancipation continued to be difficult and tragic. Hurston’s interviews became a delicate process requiring multiple visits from New York to Alabama over four years, punctuated by shared peaches, watermelons, ham, and blue crab.
With patient tenacity, Hurston immortalizes Kossula’s words into cultural, anthropological, historical, and political testimony; Miles ensures readers will faithfully and accurately hear every word. That said, missing on audio is Alice Walker’s foreword, which is included in print; Walker is credited with posthumously elevating Hurston from obscurity.
Verdict: Libraries will want to enhance availability of this best seller by providing easy access to Miles’s superb performance.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult