Zora Neale Hurston

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Kossula / Cudjo Lewis

The book’s narrator, a West African man brought to America as a slave in 1859, and the last known survivor of the Middle Passage. As he recounts to Zora Neale Hurston in the 1920s… read analysis of Kossula / Cudjo Lewis

Zora Neale Hurston

The book’s author and one of its narrators, an intrepid anthropologist who interviews Cudjo and reports his life story. Hurston is herself a budding intellectual trying to make a name for herself, and will soon… read analysis of Zora Neale Hurston

Abila / Seely

Cudjo’s wife, an ex-slave brought to America on the Clotilda whom he meets after the founding of Africatown. Cudjo loves Seely deeply; for him, she represents the tranquil and family-centered lifestyle that he grew… read analysis of Abila / Seely

Cudjo’s Mother

Cudjo’s mother, whom he describes briefly but fondly. Cudjo loses track of his family during the fatal raid on his village, but in the aftermath he comes to believe that his mother has been… read analysis of Cudjo’s Mother

King of Dahomey

The leader of a neighboring tribe much more powerful than Cudjo’s. The King derives his strength by cooperating with European slave traders and selling neighboring villagers as slaves. In Cudjo’s retelling, the King declares… read analysis of King of Dahomey
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One of the Africans sold into slavery alongside Cudjo. Gumpa does not come from Cudjo’s village but is actually from Dahomey and a relative of the King of Dahomey. After the Civil War… read analysis of Gumpa

Free George

An African-American preacher who converts Cudjo and the other residents of Africatown to Christianity, and induces them to build their own church. Free George is one of Africatown’s only links to surrounding black communities, who… read analysis of Free George


Cudjo’s eldest son. Aleck’s birth inaugurates a period of relative stability and familial happiness for Cudjo and Seely, which lasts until their children begin to die as teenagers. Aleck is the last of… read analysis of Aleck


One of Cudjo’s sons. Unlike the others, he is only referred to by his African name, not his English one. After the deaths of David and Cudjo Jr., Poe-lee becomes completely disillusioned with… read analysis of Poe-lee

Cudjo Jr.

Cudjo’s youngest son, named after his father. An energetic young man who chafes against the prejudice he experiences from the black and white communities surrounding Africatown, young Cudjo is prone to fighting and eventually… read analysis of Cudjo Jr.

Cudjo’s Daughter, Seely

Cudjo’s youngest child and only daughter, who is named after her mother, Seely. At the age of fifteen, the young Seely gets a fever and dies. She is the first of Cudjo’s children… read analysis of Cudjo’s Daughter, Seely

Jim Meaher

One of the brothers who financed the illegal slave-trading expedition in which Cudjo was forcibly brought to America. Cudjo spends his five years of enslavement working on Jim Meaher’s plantation. Although Cudjo credits Jim Meaher… read analysis of Jim Meaher

Tim Meaher

One of the brothers (the others being Jim and Burns) who financed the illegal slave-trading expedition in which Cudjo was forcibly brought to America. After the Civil War, Cudjo is sent by his fellow… read analysis of Tim Meaher
Minor Characters
Cudjo’s Grandfather
Cudjo’s grandfather and the patriarch of his family. Grandfather works for the tribe’s king, Akia’on.
Cudjo’s Father
Cudjo’s father, a prosperous but not wealthy man with three wives, of whom Cudjo’s mother is the second.
The king of Cudjo’s tribe, who presides over festivals, trials, and executions. While Cudjo has no personal interaction with the chief, he appears frequently in Cudjo’s descriptions of tribal activities.
Prince of Dahomey
A relative of the King of Dahomey, who conducts business negotiations with white slave traders.
One of Cudjo’s sons. Like his younger sister (Cudjo’s daughter, Seely), he dies of a sudden fever as a young man.
One of Cudjo’s sons. He is killed in a railroad accident in Plateau. Cudjo is never able to achieve any kind of justice for his son’s death, which demonstrates the callous disregard for black life that pervades American society and from which large companies like railroad corporations benefit.
Burns Meaher
One of the brothers (the others being Jim and Tim) who financed the illegal slave-trading expedition in which Cudjo was forcibly brought to America. Mentioned in Hurston’s introduction, Burns does not appear for the rest of the book.
Captain Bill Foster
The captain of the Clotilda, who carries out the illegal slave-trading expedition fostered by the Meaher brothers (Tim, Jim, and Burns) in which Cudjo and his fellow villagers are forcibly brought to America.
An Alabama lawyer who represents Cudjo in his lawsuit against the railroad company after he’s crippled in a train accident. Clarke wins the suit but then absconds with the settlement money.
Ole Charlie
An elderly resident of Africatown, and one of the oldest survivors of the Middle Passage besides Cudjo.