[UPDATE] Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: Recovery and Reception (MELUS 2019: Deadline Extended)
Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: Recovery and Reception
33rd Annual MELUS (Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.) Conference: "Underground Histories"
This panel invites papers on the belated legacy of Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo, completed in 1931 but only recently published to wide acclaim in 2018. Barracoon’s harrowing account of the transatlantic slave trade draws on interviews the author conducted with Cudjo Lewis (Oluale Kossola). Through Lewis’s firsthand narrative, Hurston examines the circumstances surrounding the final ship to illegally transport men and women from West Africa to the U.S.—fifty-three years after the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves was signed into federal law.
We encourage scholarship on any of the following topics:
- The wealthy, primarily white patronage system that funded many prominent figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance and Black Modernism, particularly Charlotte Osgood Mason’s proprietary role in Barracoon’s composition process and subsequent fortunes;
- The complicated publication history of Hurston’s anthropological writings, including debates over the popular marketability of ethnographic research rendered in dialect among mainstream publishers of the era;
- The ethics of recovery work in the Hurston archive, for example, Alice Walker’s crucial role in promoting the author’s work, Barracoon’s release as co-extensive with her unofficial stewardship of the Hurston resurgence for close to half a century, and the new dimension it adds to Cudjo Lewis’s brief appearance in Dust Tracks on a Road (1942);
- The text’s contribution to research on global human trafficking in the nineteenth century, with a specific emphasis on the Middle Passage—including Barracoon’s most controversial feature: Lewis’ detailed acknowledgment of African complicity in enslavement as a common warfare strategy to exacerbate intra-tribal rivalries;
- The representation or depiction of gender in relation to social, economic, and historical contexts in Barracoon.