Common Read

I Was Sent to Ask

The 2023-2024 Common Read/Common World committee announces that the book selection for this upcoming academic year is “Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” by Novelist, Folklorist and Anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. She is also the author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

“Barracoon,” originally completed in 1931, was finally published by Amistad an imprint of HarperCollins in 2018. This book is based on Hurston’s 1927 interviews with West African born Cudjo Lewis, whose original name is Oluale Kossola. He is considered the last survivor of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. In “Barracoon,” Lewis’ story is shared in his own words and voice. Lewis resided in the Africatown community of Mobile, Alabama, until his death in 1935. 

“Barracoon” fits the parameters established for USA’s Common Read, including the following:

  • Potential to engage students and spark discussion
  • Appeal to a wide-range of students
  • Possibilities for classroom use,  including the First Year Experience classes
  • Inclusion of cross-cultural education, awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity
  • Possibilities for campus-cultural education, awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity
  • Possibilities for campus programming, and
  • Relevance for student life.

Faculty and staff can utilize this work for fall and spring semester classes. If anyone is interested in partnering on programs related to this book selection, contact us at

Book Cover

For Faculty


The Marx Library resource page is also available.

Co-curricular events can enrich classroom discussions. Please keep checking here for updates.

Common Read Events