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(Image courtesy of Google images)

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most important pieces of anthropological/historical work of the 20th century, even though it was not published until the 21st century. It tells the story of Kossula/Cudjo Lewis, the last survivor of the final group of slaves brought illegally into the United States in 1859. Lewis' story is important because he was 19 years old when his village was raided by the Dahomeys and he was taken to be sold into slavery. He grew up knowing his family, culture and ancestors, and still remembered everything when Hurston interviewed him. One important aspect of this story was the fact that it did not shy away from the part that Africans played in the slave trade. Certain tribes/kingdoms partnered with various European entities to enslave other Africans. A sad cycle all around.

Hurston, for her part, wanted to present Kossula's story in his own voice and in the dialect he spoke. This humbled us. Our stories are important, our voices are important, our stories in our voices are important and irreplaceable. A very poignant piece of history, a hard read, but worth it.

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