In this book, Zora Neale Hurston told the story of Cudjo Lewis (Oluale Kossola), who was brought over to the United States via the Clotilda as “cargo.” He was held in the barracoon a tight space where he and one hundred other slaves were confined and then sold to work in the fields.Over a three month, Hurston made the trip to see Cudjo, bringing him fruit and other foods while building his trust. Some days they would talk and some days he would turn her away. Although his story was told in his vernacular, I didn’t have a problem with it. Actually, I felt I understood his story on a deeper level as a slave then a freed man, a husband, father and finally a sexton at his church in Africatown (Plateau Alabama).
I found his story heart wrenching especially when he talked about how his village was attached by female warriors who slaughtered his family and friends. He didn’t get the chance to train to be a warrior, get married and start a family before he was snatched away as “cargo.”I tried not to be angry as I read how he was treated after he was freed as a slave. He had no money to buy passage back to Africa, he had no land to build a home and he no place to call home. But somehow, through all his struggles he was able to build a life be a founder of Africatown (Alabama). A place where some of his customs could be preserved.
By all regards, he had a good family but they were plagued by death. He and his wife had six children and all died except one who took off and we the readers have no idea what happened. Also, I would have loved to know what happened to Cudjo at the time he was interviewed by Hurston, he was eight-six years old.Overall, it was good book that gave a different perspective of the slave trade and how vicious and complicit some of the tribes were in Africa. Very informative read!
My favorite lines:
On the Tuesday after the New Year, I found Cudjo in a backward-looking mood. He was with his departed family in the land to the west. He talked about his boys, he grew tearful over his wife.
“I so lonely. I los’ my wife de 15 November 1908. We been together long time. I marry her Chris’mas day, 1865. She a good wife to me.”
There was a long, feeling silence, then he turned to and spoke, “Ole Charlie, he de oldest one come from Afficky, came one Sunday after my wife lef’ me and say, ‘Uncle Cudjo, make us a parable.’
“Den I axed dem, ‘How many limbs God give de body so it kin be active?’
“Dey say six; two arms two feet two eyes.
“I say dey cut off de feet, he got hands to ‘fend hisself. Dey cut off de hands he wiggle out de way when he see danger come. But when he lose de eye, den he can’t see nothin’ come upon him. He finish. My boys is my feet. My daughter is my hands. My wife she my eye. She left, Cudjo finish.”
Rating: 4 stars