Parents' Guide to

Barracoon: Adapted for Young Readers

By Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Poignant story of the last Africans enslaved in the U.S.

Barracoon book cover: Black boy in green shirt gazes at sailing ship, with man's face in the background

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This poignant book reveals the personal and collective toll of U.S. slavery on Black people and families. In Barracoon: Adapted for Young Readers by Ibram X. Kendi, readers are shown that slavery is not really so far behind us. Cudjo Lewis was a real person, but he also serves as a symbol for many generations and Black experiences, from his brief, happy childhood in Africa to life on U.S. soil through slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Readers unfamiliar with written African American English may need to adjust to reading Cudjo's voice, but with Hurston's explanation, the dialect is accessible and quickly picked up. Kendi preserves Zora Neale Hurston's wise choice of structure in Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" -- Cudjo's story is embedded in the account of their relationship, which feels like a young person listening to stories at a beloved elder's knee. Though there's much sadness in this book, there's also remarkable resilience and stark proof that stories connect people to history and one another in profound and important ways.

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