Slave trade is one of the American historical aspects that shaped the country in many aspects. Young and energetic Africans were raided and forcefully shipped to America to be sold to slave masters. These helpless young men and women worked tirelessly to build America under the authoritative rule of the whites. As much as the slave trade was abolished, many other masters still smuggled Africans to the United States. The Africans underwent lots of trouble in order to survive. Unfortunately, the African slave story has not been heard. In this article, Adam Lusher writes about the story told to the writer Zora Neale Hurston by a former slave called Cudjo Lewis. The article entitled Descendant of the last survivor of the final slave ship to travel from Africa to the US tells of pride as forefather’s story is published – 87 years after it was written is a fulfillment of the long-term dream of a former slave and a writer who died when publishers refused to publish her manuscripts.
Cudjo Lewis had the desire to tell the world his story of the slave trade, from his Benin, his African country to the United States as a slave. He narrated his own experiences in the hands of the slave master and life after being set free. Hurston wrote Cudjo Lewis’ story in a way that preserves his African dialect (1). Unfortunately, the article mentions the trouble the writer underwent because the publishers refused to take up the story. It seems that the American publishers were never ready to listen to the African slave story. Failure to publish such a story was a way of a calculated move to authenticate the struggles that the poor African former slaves had.
According to the article, Cudjo Lewis’ story was to be finally published after several decades on the shelves in Howard University. Such a move is a positive step toward telling the world the persistence of the black Americans. In American history, the voices of the slaves in the processes of liberation can only be heard from the voices of the former slaves. In most cases, history only captures the contributions made by a few prominent blacks like Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. However, many other former slaves had stories of their contribution to the growth of America. Such stories could only be heard through published work from writers like Zora Neale Hurston.
The article talks about the story of a man who builds his life from nothing. Having arrived in the United States naked, working like a slave for years before securing freedom. Cudjo Lewis and the colleagues worked tirelessly in order to earn money to start life. He manages to buy a two-acre piece of land from the former master to settle. All others do the same and together they build a little village known as Africatown. These people started a community, built a church and a school. They had families, who underwent lots of challenges in American society.
It is obvious that the African American story needs to be told for people to know the strength and endurance people had in order to survive the harsh conditions of the time. As the last person that survived their shipment to America, Cudjo Lewis’ story is real and seeks to present the effort and struggles of a former slave who picks himself to start life in America. His struggles from the capture to slavery is real because it comes from his own African dialect. Indeed, Cudjo Lewis is part of the struggle towards the American dream.
Lusher, Adam. Descendant of last survivor of final slave ship to travel from Africa to US tells of
pride as forefather’s story is published – 87 years after it was written, The Independent, 2019. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/barracoon-cudjo-lewis-zora-neale-hurston-last-slave-ship-survivor-book-life-story-published-a8335776.html.