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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185

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The principal characters in this story are Zora Neale Hurston, a Harlem Renaissance–era writer. She was also a highly trained anthropologist, having studied under Franz Boas at Barnard. Barracoon is more an anthropological study than a story, but Hurston's narrative skill is put to use in documenting the story of Cudjo Lewis, otherwise known as Kossula.

Kossula was born in Africa, captured and sold by the Dahomey in the slave trade. He came to America on the Clotilde, the last ship to transport slaves to the United States, as the slave trade directly from Africa had been banned.

Kossula discusses his marriage to Seely and discusses his sons, who all died before their parents. Lesser figures include the slave owner Captain Tim Meaher, from whom Kossula is eventually able to earn his freedom and some land in Africatown, which had been part of Meaher's property. A Captain Foster, who made the journey across the Atlantic, is also mentioned.

These latter figures can be documented outside of Hurston's work, but her focus on Kossula's family and his private memories forms the important aspect of Barracoon.