Over the course of her life Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) was many things: student, folklorist, anthropologist/ethnographer, memoirist, and novelist. She also faded into a kind of scholarly and literary obscurity, reemerging after her death with the rediscovery—and, in some cases, discovery—of her earlier writings, which now capture the imagination of new generations of readers. One of her works, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” never found its way into print during her lifetime, though portions of the story it tells appeared under her name in the Journal of Negro History and her autobiography, Dust Tracks in the Road. But the book manuscript, based on conversations in 1927 that Hurston had with Cudjo Lewis, an enslaved passenger on what is believed to have been the last slave ship to arrive in the United States, on the eve of the...

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