A Work by Zora Neale Hurston Will Finally Be Published

In the spring of 1931, Zora Neale Hurston finished her first book, a 117-page manuscript titled “Barracoon.” It told the true story of Cudjo Lewis, an Alabama man who was believed to be the last living person captured in Africa and brought to America on a slave ship.

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.

But Hurston kept thinking about Lewis, whose story felt deeply personal to her. About a decade later, she wrote about him in “Dust Tracks on a Road,” her autobiography: “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.”

Now, nearly a century after she wrote it, “Barracoon” will be made widely available to the public for the first time, in a new edition published by Amistad, a HarperCollins’s imprint. 

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