Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
In 1927, an 86-year-old ex-slave living near Mobile AL tells his life story to interviewer Zora Neale Hurston. His words are recorded as heard, in local southern dialect. Cudjo Lewis was born Kossula in West Africa; captured and sold into slavery, and transported across the ocean in the famous ship Clotilde. Yes, America had abolished the slave trade decades before; this was all done hush-hush. Kossula lived over 5 years as a slave; then freed by the Civil War he built a house, and lived with a beloved wife and six children – all of whom predeceased him, each parting more tragic than the last. While this is undeniably a painful tale to read, the fascination of hearing first-hand the experiences of a black American of that time period who was African-born and can remember and relate his childhood experiences, his capture, his transport, his time enslaved, and his experiences since, makes the read a powerful and moving experience and more than just a sad slog.