Kujo Luis: The shocking last survivor of the slave markets

Shocking and inhumane could be described what is revealed in Zora Neil Hirston’s book, “Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”. It is a book that was written in 1927 but was not released until 2018, almost a century later, as the testimonies of Kujo Luis are highly revealing.

Kujo Luis, the last survivor of the American slave trade, died in 1935 at the age of 93, having first lost his family, been sold into slavery, lived in a ship’s hold, beaten, tortured and tried to rebuild his life.

It is worth noting that barracoons, a word that is also the title of the book, were the slave traders’ camps in Africa. According to Lewis, the African peoples had a significant share in the slave trade, constantly raiding to enslave and sell other tribes in the American South. Oluale Kozola, known as Kujo Luis, points out that he was 19 years old when he was captured, after an unimaginable savagery by Africans, in the city of Bade where he lived. He saw severed heads hanging from the belts of the warriors who then burned them. The survivors, including himself, were taken prisoners.

Then, together with 119 other slaves, they were left naked and chained in the hold of a ship, without food, water and light, while after several days they were given a minimal amount of water mixed with vinegar, so as not to die from scurvy. Only on the 13th day were they allowed to go out on deck, where they were blinded by the sun and could not stand up due to the stillness of the previous days. The conditions of their transportation were even more difficult due to the urine and feces that they had in the barn.

Kujo, owned by Captain William Forster, landed in the port of Mobil in seventy days at the end of 1860. The slave traders hid him, along with other slaves, on the banks of a river in a swamp. He was enslaved for five and a half years in Plato-Magazine Point, Alabama, before being released by Northern troops after the end of the American Civil War. As he reveals in the book, he was flogged every day, he did hard work in the fields while he was being beaten, he was constantly in the sun and the cold and he worked sick and drowsy.

After his release he had no money or place to live and founded a colony with other slaves. There he raised his own family with six children who died young. His wife died in 1908 and until the end of his life, Kutzo stayed with his son’s wife and grandchildren.

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