Category Archives: U.S.A

Petrified Forest National Park: Ancient and Spectacular

Petrified Forest National Park: Ancient and Spectacular

We’re going to the southwestern state of Arizona on our National Parks trip this week. We’ll find a strange and vivid landscape there. The hilly soil is covered by black, red, and sometimes purple rocks and sand. In odd forms, massive bits of ancient trees curl.

Petrified Forest National Park: Ancient and Spectacular
The Jasper Forest section of the park

The area is the only national park that includes a part of the historic U.S. Route 66.

Welcome to the Petrified Forest National Park!

The word “forest” may mislead visitors. The park is in a desert. And the word “petrified” — which can mean “afraid”– may scare visitors away!

But fear not. “Petrified Forest” gets its name from the trees that have, over millions of years, turned to stone. That natural process is called fossilization.

Much of the Petrified Forest formed from tall trees called conifers. They grew over 200 million years ago near waterways. During floods, water forced the trees to be pulled up from the ground. Over time, the wood from the trees became petrified. The Petrified Forest National Park is one of the wonders of Arizona. It sits within the Painted Desert.

A Spanish explorer in the 1500s gave the place its name. It is easy to see why. The desert looks like an artist’s canvas. Brilliantly coloured mudstones and clays cover the land as far as the eye can see. They contain bentonite, a clay that is the product of changed volcanic ash.

The oldest geological formations in the park are about 227 million years old. Differently coloured formations show different time periods. The Blue Mesa formations, for example, have thick bands of grey, purple, blue and green mudstones. They are about 220 million years old.

Ancient history

Evidence of humans in the Petrified Forest dates back 13,000 years.

People first came here after the last Ice Age. Early Paleoindian groups used petrified wood to create different kinds of stone tools. They used them to hunt large animals. The climate warmed over several thousand years. Humans began building villages here and growing food, such as corn, squash and beans.

In the 900s, people in the area began building above-ground houses, called pueblos. They also made pottery for cooking and other uses. Scientists today find evidence of early pottery and pueblo homes all over Petrified Forest National Park. A long and severe drought in the early 1400s forced most of the people living here to move. But new groups soon arrived.

European explorers came in the 1500s. By the 1800s, American pioneers began settling in the area. And, by the 1920s, American motorists were travelling on U.S. Route 66. The road winds through the heart of the Painted Desert.

Long before humans entered the area, though, dinosaurs dominated. Petrified Forest National Park is a world-class area for fossil research. The fossil record at the park preserves some of the earliest dinosaurs. The dinosaur fossils are from the Late Triassic period, called the “dawn of the dinosaurs.” They help scientists reconstruct ancient environments.

Creating a National Park

The land here was set aside as a national monument in 1906. Congress moved to protect it because of its unique ecosystem, a record of human history and dramatic southwestern scenery. It became a national park in 1962.

More than 800,000 people visit the Petrified Forest National Park each year. The best way to explore the park is by foot. The National Park Service maintains many kilometres of walking trails.

The Crystal Forest trail is a one-kilometre path. It is named for the crystals that can be seen on the pieces of petrified wood. The trail is one of the best chances to see this fossilized wood up close.

The Petrified Forest includes many shapes and sizes of wood, from large logs to stumps to the smallest remains of plants. Most of the petrified wood found in the park is made up of quartz. Quartz is a hard, colourless mineral. The wood sometimes shines in the sunlight as if covered by glitter.

The Painted Desert Rim trail offers visitors a good chance to see the park’s wildlife. Lizards and rabbits are common. So are snakes and foxes.

Early morning or evening are the best times to see animals. These are also the times when the sun makes the Painted Desert the most colourful and spectacular.

Scenes from the Crystal Forest trail

Oldest DNA in America traced back in Montana Man

Oldest DNA in America traced back in Montana Man

A new client has taken the status of the oldest traceable DNA in the Americas, according to one genetic company. A Great Falls Tribune article shows the DNA of Alvin ‘Willy’ Crawford traced back 55 generations with a shocking 99 percent accuracy, making his lineage the longest ever traced by CRI Genetics, the ancestry testing company.

The genetic tests, according to the study, traced Crawford’s DNA back a whopping 17,000 years.

The length and accuracy of Crawford’s lineage are so rare that the company told Crawford’s family that it was ‘like finding Big Foot.’

The DNA test traced Crawford’s family history to ancestors that migrated across the Bering Land Bridge. Many of Americas first humans crossed a narrow land bridge that stretched across the Bering Sea and into Alaska (illustrated above)

According to the report, Crawford died of a heart attack shortly before the results of CRI’s genetic testing had concluded, but was told that his ancestors had migrated across the Bering Land Bridge during an Ice Age.  

According to Crawford’s DNA, however, he belonged to the mtDNA Haplogroup B2 — a genetic subgroup — which is very common in southwestern America. 

Likely, Crawford’s ancestors traveled from Asia to South America and traveled north according to CRI.

Crawford’s DNA was 83 percent native American according to the report, with 73 percent of that coming from one tribe alone, the Blackfeet Nation.

As the ability to sequence and understand genomes has steadily advanced, so too has our understanding of the way species, including humans, have evolved.  

In 2010, a bit of luck led to the first fully sequenced genome of early humans.

Scientists were able to map the entire genome of an early ancient human after analyzing a 4,000-year-old hairball found frozen in Greenland soil — the piece of genetic history pales in comparison to other ancient human DNA which has been dated as far back as 430,000 years. 

Similarly, after studying the discovered DNA of a six-week-old Native American infant who died 11,500 years ago, researchers revealed last year that humans likely migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge into Alaska in one fell swoop as opposed to coming in waves like previously thought.

For individuals in Native American communities like that to which Crawford and his family belong, the impacts of genetic testing have had more personal ripple effects. 

According to genetics company CRI, Alvin Crawford has the oldest traceable DNA in the companies history. Alvin died before the results came in, but his family says he would have been ‘blown away.’ His brother, Darrell “Dusty” Crawford, is pictured

Genetic testing is now used, to some controversy, to test people’s enrollment in tribes — if tests come back under certain percentages of a tribe’s DNA then they may not be allowed in. 

Arguments over Native American ancestry have even made the national stage, namely through a public spat between the presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and President Donald Trump over Warren’s alleged Native American background. 

To prove her claim, she resorted to genetic testing. 

A Representative from CRI Genetics did not respond to a request for comment before the time of publication. 

9,000-Year-Old Stonehenge-Like Structure Found Under Lake Michigan

9,000-Year-Old Stonehenge-Like Structure Found Under Lake Michigan

Archaeologists found something much more fascinating than they got credit for when searching under the waters of Lake Michigan for shipwrecks: they uncovered a rock with a prehistoric carving of a mastodon, as well as a collection of stones arranged in a Stonehenge-like manner.

Gazing into the water

In modern archaeology, the use of remote sensing techniques is common: scientists regularly survey lakes and soil for hidden objects.

Archaeologists uncovered sunken boats and cars and even a Civil War-era pier at a depth of around 40 feet into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, using sonar techniques to search for shipwrecks,  but among all these, they found this prehistoric surprise, which a trained eye can guess by looking at the sonar scans photos in this article.

“When you see it in the water, you’re tempted to say this is absolutely real,” said Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College who made the discovery, during a news conference with photos of the boulder on display in 2007. “But that’s what we need the experts to come in and verify.

Professor Mark Holley hopes that a computer model of the carving in the mastodon rock will help petroglyph experts

The boulder with the markings is 3.5 to 4 feet high and about 5 feet long. Photos show a surface with numerous fissures.

Some may be natural while others appear of human origin, but those forming what could be the petroglyph stood out, Holley said.

Viewed together, they suggest the outlines of a mastodon-like back, hump, head, trunk, tusk, triangular-shaped ear and parts of legs, he said.

“We couldn’t believe what we were looking at,” said Greg MacMaster, president of the underwater preserve council.

Specialists shown pictures of the boulder holding the mastodon markings have asked for more evidence before confirming the markings are an ancient petroglyph, said Holley.

“They want to actually see it,” he said. Unfortunately, he added, “Experts in petroglyphs generally don’t dive, so we’re running into a little bit of a stumbling block there.”

If found to be true, the wannabe petroglyph could be as much as 10,000 years old – coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.

The stones of discovered underwater structure are organised circle and believe to be at least 10,000 years old.

The formation, if authenticated, wouldn’t be completely out of place. Stone circles and other petroglyph sites are located in the area.

The discovery was made back a few years ago, and surprisingly enough the find hasn’t been popularized at all, with little to no information available online, but I’ll be sure to update this post as soon as I can get ahold of more info.

Couple finds more than 66 bottles of Prohibition-era whiskey hidden in the walls of their New York home

Couple finds more than 66 bottles of Prohibition-era whiskey hidden in the walls of their New York home

After finding 66 bottles of whiskey from the Prohibition period concealed in the walls and floorboards of their home in upstate New York, a couple is left shocked.

Late last year in the town of Ames, Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker bought the property and were told that it once belonged to a ‘childless German baron who turned to bootlegging in the 1920s.’

As nothing more than folklore, the couple passed off the storey before last month they started renovating the 105-year-old home and found hidden liquor in the gaps between the walls and floors.

Couple finds more than 66 bottles of Prohibition-era whiskey hidden in the walls of their New York home
A New York couple has been left stunned after finding 66 bottles of Prohibition-era whiskey hidden in the walls and floorboards of their upstate home. All of the bottles are Old Smuggler Gaelic whiskey – a Scottish label which is still in production today

Drummond told CNN that he was removing outside skirting from a mudroom when he found the bottles of whiskey wrapped up in a brown paper.  

‘I’m like what is that? I’m was very confused… I’m like holy crap. This is like a whiskey stash. And this is like, all of a sudden, the whole story of the bootlegger [makes sense].’

Drummond told CNN that he was removing outside skirting from a mudroom when he found the bottles of whiskey wrapped up in brown paper
The three-story home in Ames is pictured. Drummond and Bakker had no idea of the property’s incredible history when they made the purchase last year

Drummond shared a video of the remarkable moment to his Instagram page – which has recently attracted thousands of new followers. 

 ‘OUR WALLS ARE BUILT OF BOOZE!’ he wrote.

‘I can’t believe the rumours are true! He was actually a bootlegger! I mean I thought it was a cute story, but the builder of our house was ACTUALLY a bootlegger!’

The couple uncovered 42 bottles of whiskey in the wall space. All of the bottles are Old Smuggler Gaelic whiskey – a Scottish label which is still in production today. 

However, Drummond and Bakker went on to discover even more concealed booze beneath floorboards inside the mudroom.  So far, the pair have found a total of 66 bottles, and say it’s likely they’ll come across others as they continue their renovations. 

Drummond and Bakker went on to discover even more concealed booze beneath floorboards inside the mudroom

The bottles are estimated to be worth around $1,000 a pop – but the couple did not reveal whether they had opened one to give the whiskey a try. 

Unlike wine, whiskey does not improve with age once it has been bottled. While it’s unlikely to be harmful if the pair do decide to drink it, there’s no guarantee that it’ll taste any good.  

Bottles of the whiskey – dating back at least 90 years – were discovered wrapped in brown paper

After making the discovery, Drummond subsequently began researching the history of the home, and learned there was some truth to the rumours it was owned by a’a ‘childless German baron who turned to bootlegging’.

The original owner was a German man known as Count Adolph Humpfner – who died mysteriously in 1932 and left behind a large fortune.   

‘His estate was worth over $140,000 in 1932,’ Drummond told his Instagram followers. 

‘He had many aliases and was known as the mystery man of the Mohawk Valley, and ‘the count’; although there was never proof of his royalty beyond his own claims.

‘It was a mystery to locals at the time how he amassed his fortune. He owned a local bank, the school gymnasium, and 23 properties in NYC and NJ.’

Now, it seems apparent that he amassed his fortune through bootlegging during the Prohibition-era, which ran from 1920- 1933.  

Ames is located about halfway between New York City and the Canadian border, making it the perfect place for bootleggers who may have been bringing in illegal alcohol from the north.  

Incredible ancient ruins in the USA you probably didn’t know About

Incredible ancient ruins in the USA you probably didn’t know About

The ruins of the ancient civilizations are all common in Rome, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico. These cultures are the backbone of the western world, but all of them are so far away that most people see only one or two times in their lifetime.

What to do?

Ok, how about going to see any of them in your own backyard? Many people are surprised to discover that America has many civilizational ruins that have existed for thousands of years. Here are the top 6 choices for the best places to visit ancient ruins in America.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

This park is perhaps the best known ancient ruin in the US. The massive sandstone and wood structures date between 900 – 1200 A.D. when the ancient Puebloans struggled to scratch a living out of the unpredictable desert climate. They wedged their dwellings under large overhanging rocks and inside the alcoves in canyon walls, giving them the name cliff dwellers.

There are four main areas to explore, three on guided tours and a fourth on your own. The largest dwelling Cliff Palace and the view from Balcony House are so impressive they both made the list of top 6 ruins. Make sure you leave yourself enough time as it is difficult to visit both on the same day. Cliff Palace, the most recognized of the four, faces southwest to take advantage of the warm afternoon sun during the winter months. The Palace has almost 150 rooms, making it the largest of the cliff dwellings.

Balcony House is set up on a high ledge, and the only access in or out is a series of toeholds in the cleft of a cliff, which made this dwelling very defensible. Today you can visit these impressive dwellings by climbing a series of ladders.

Camping sites are available, as well as several hiking trails, guided backcountry tours, and bike trips. Exploring the dwellings themselves can be vigorous, involving climbing several ladders, crawling through tunnels, or walking up steep steps.

Serpent Mound and Earth Works, Ohio

Spread throughout Ohio are ancient Indian burial mounds, including some just a stone’s throw from where I grew up. There is the famous Serpent Mound that slithers throughout the valley in the shape of a giant snake.

Until a couple of years ago, Serpent Mound was thought to have been created around 100 A.D. However, new evidence shows that these mounds may be as old as 321 B.C. This means that when these burial mounds were being built, at the same time in Greece Aristotle was pondering the meaning of life.

Several other of these man made mounds are in the form of elaborate geometric shapes called Earth Works. Some of these Earth Works date back to 10,000 B.C. It is mind-blowing to see how ancient cultures buried their dead in such a unique way. The mounds have been expertly repaired and preserved, and there is talk about UNESCO making them a World Heritage Site.

Chaco Culture National Park, New Mexico

Between 900 and 1100 A.D., Chaco served as the major cultural heart of the ancient Puebloans. Chaco Canyon is in northwestern New Mexico in the San Juan Basin and is surrounded by mountains. The Indians built their dwellings to reflect solar and lunar cycles, which required incredible levels of study and knowledge.

There is also proof of a thriving turquoise mining and manufacturing trade in the area around 1,000 A.D. These people were called “Anasazi” by the Navajo, a word meaning ‘ancient ones’. This culture was highly developed for their time and is still celebrated by the Hopi people as their sacred ancestors.

Come visit the ruins of what were the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century. These truly impressive ruins built on arid plains can be seen for miles.

Cahokia Mounds Historic Site, Illinois

This ancient Mississippian culture spread across much of the central and southeastern parts of the United States. Cahokia was a large cultural and economic hub due to its ideal location near where the Missouri and Illinois Rivers join with the massive Mississippi River. Evidence of trade exists between the Cahokian population and other civilizations as far north as the Great Lakes and south to the Gulf coast.

The present day site has around 80 identified mounds, but at the peak of trade in the 13th century, there were over 120 mounds. At its height, the area had a population of over 40,000 people.

When you visit the site, you can immediately see the most prominent mound and focus of the city, called Monks Mound. Excavations have revealed a large building that could have been either a temple or the residence of the highest ranking chief.

Visit mound 72, a burial mound, where archeologists found the body of “Birdman”, a man in his 40s thought to be an important ruler. He was buried on a mound of shell beads shaped into a falcon, an important and common motif in Mississippian culture.

They also found hundreds of bodies interred there in various states of ceremony, some even showing the possibility of having been buried alive. This park also has North America’s only known copper workshop in Mississippian culture. One interesting find is the discovery of what experts believe is a ‘woodhenge’, a circular structure similar to Europe’s Stonehenge that was instrumental in marking agricultural cycles.

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Unlike most ancient dwellings sites that only have a couple buildings, the Wupatki National Monument spreads out over an expansive area in the desert just outside of Flagstaff. There are five large sites open to the public. They date back to the 12th and 13th centuries when the Anasazi Indians expanded into the desert after the eruption of Sunset Volcano in 1064 A.D.

The ash fall made the area infertile, so the Indians moved further into the desert. You can walk the dramatic red structures made of Moenkopi sandstone at each of the five sites and even visit the Wupatki Pueblo, an Anasazi word meaning “big house”.

It is a 3 story dwelling with over 300 rooms. Take in the impressive views from Wukoki Pueblo, built on a high block of sandstone and visible for miles. After touring all the pueblos, check out Sunset Crater Volcano, the dormant volcano a bit further down the road.

Mule Canyon, Utah

In southeastern Utah there is a system of smaller ruins that wind through branched canyons through Cedar Mesa sandstone. This area is full of interesting sites, but by far the most exciting is the 4-mile trek through Mule Canyon. The trailhead is easy to reach, right off the main highway.

There are eight sites scattered along the trail, some that require climbing to reach, and some that have several rooms you can wander through. The most attractive feature: there are small natural springs near the upper end that feed a trickling stream. The entire hiking experience through the narrow canyon is one that you shouldn’t miss!

Whether you’re looking for a quick dip into the past or to immerse yourself into the lives of those that came before you, these six sites are some of the best in the country. All are protected public lands in different settings providing a unique experience. Hope you have fun exploring them all!

Metal monolith found by a helicopter crew in Utah desert

Metal monolith found by a helicopter crew in Utah desert

In a remote part of Utah, after being spotted by state employees counting sheep from a helicopter, a mysterious monolith was found. The structure appeared to be planted in the soil, estimated to be between 10ft and 12ft tall (about 3 metres).

It was made from some sort of metal, its shine in sharp contrast to the enormous red rocks which surrounded it.

Utah’s highway patrol shared images of both the sheep and the monolith.

Big horn sheep are native to southern parts of Utah

The helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, told local news channel KSLTV: “That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying.”

Hutchings was flying for the Utah department of public safety, which was helping wildlife resource officers count bighorn sheep in the south of the state.

“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” Hutchings said. “He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turns around!’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘There’s this thing back there – we’ve got to go look at it!’”

Hutchings said the object looked manmade and appeared to have been firmly planted in the ground, not dropped from the sky.

“I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings said.

The monolith and its setting resembled a famous scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, in which a group of apes encounter a giant slab.

The somewhat monkey-like behaviour of two crew members, dressed in sci-fi costume-like overalls, who found themselves compelled to climbed onto each other’s shoulders in an apparent effort to see over the top of the rectangular cuboid, only added to the impression.

There was speculation that the monolith was installed by an artist

“We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it,” Hutchings said.

Bighorn sheep live in some of Utah’s most rugged and remote areas and survive in hostile climate conditions. Fearing amateur explorers might get stuck in the wilderness while seeking out the monolith, the flight crew have not revealed its exact location.

Some observers compared the monolith to the plank sculptures by artist John McCracken, who lived in New Mexico and New York until his death in 2011. McCracken’s gallerist, David Zwirner, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Artist Liam Sharp summed up the people’s fascination with the discovery in 270 characters or less, putting into the portal the words, “I love this. I imagine it’s an art piece, but what if it isn’t”.

A 12-Year-Old Boy Found an Ancient Woolly Mammoth Tooth During a Vacation in Ohio

A 12-Year-Old Boy Found an Ancient Woolly Mammoth Tooth During a Vacation in Ohio

A 12-year-old boy visiting Ohio’s Amish Country may be one of the youngest archaeologists in history.

Last month, Jackson Hepner was living with his family at The Inn at Honey Run in Millersburg, Ohio, when he came across a rare relic of the ice age, a woolly mammoth tooth, Fox 8 reported.

“Hepner wrote on the hotel’s blog, where a relative is the hotel manager, “I noticed the tooth about ten yards upstream from the bridge that we had our family photographs on. “On the left side of the creek, it was partly buried. It was on the creek bed, entirely out of the water.

The discovery was verified by experts Nick Kardulias from the Archaeology Department of Wooster College, Dale Gnidovec from the Orton Geological Museum of the Ohio State University, and Nigel Ashland from the Geology Department of Ashland University.

They noted the tooth, an upper third molar, had parallel ridges, which are indicative of mammoths, whose diet required specialized teeth to grind their food, such as grass and seeds.

Between 110,000 and 12,000 years ago, woolly mammoths inhabited the area now called Ohio (though they ultimately died out in Siberia about 4,000 years ago).

According to Gnidovec, mammoths came over from Asia two million years ago, but skeletons older than 13,000 years are difficult to find due to “glacial advances” over the state.

A closeup view of the woolly mammoth tooth.

“During the Ice Age there were two kinds of ‘elephants’ living in Ohio — mammoths and mastodons,” Gnidovec told Newsweek.

Mastodons are much more common … [and] mammoths much rarer. That is because Ice Age Ohio had much more forested areas, which the mastodons lived in, that it did open grasslands preferred by the mammoths.”

The Inn seems to be thrilled with their involvement in this discovery and Ohio’s ancient history.

“What is now lush greenery, flowing waters, and hundreds of beautiful species was once an enormous glacial sheet that would slowly (and literally) shape Ohio’s future,” they wrote on their blog.

“The unearthing of the Mammoth tooth shows that there are definite pieces of ancient history hidden around us, connecting us to an interesting past.”

Now that his discovery has been legitimized, Hepner is eager to get his hand on his buried treasure once again.

“I would like to have my tooth back in my hands as soon as possible,” he wrote. “I want to show my friends.”

A lost interview with a survivor of the last U.S. slave ship surfaced

A lost interview with a survivor of the last U.S. slave ship surfaced

A schooner named Clotilda arrived in Mobile Bay, Alabama, on the warm and unusually unsuspecting day of July 1860, on board by captain William Foster and eleventy African slaves. Clotilda was the U.S. slave ship last known to bring captives to the United States from Africa.

Photo of Cudjo Lewis (c.1841 – 1935), the third to last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade between Africa and the United States.

Among more than one hundred enslaved African people, there was also Cudjo (sometimes spelled as Cudjoe) Kazoola (or Kossula) Lewis – the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade between Africa and the United States.

Cudjo Lewis, originally named Kossula (American listeners would later transcribe Cudjo’s given name as “Kazoola”), was born around 1840 into the Yoruba tribe, in the Banté region, which today belongs to the West African country of Benin. His father’s name was Oluwale (or Oluale) and his mother’s – Fondlolu. Kossula had five siblings and twelve half-siblings, who were the children of his father’s other two wives.

Mobile Bay and the wreckage of slave ship Clotilda are pictured above.
In the spring of 1860, when Cudjo was only 19 years old, he was taken as a prisoner by the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey.

After the Dahomian tribe captured him, Cudjo was taken to the coast. There, he and more than one hundred other men and women were sold into slavery and crammed onto the Clotilda – the last slave ship to reach the shores of the continental United States. The captives were brought to Mobile Bay, Alabama.

The international slave trade was not legal at that time already for more than 50 years. Along with many European nations, the U.S. had outlawed the practice in 1807, but Lewis’ journey proves how slave traders went around the law to continue bringing over human cargo.

However, to avoid detection of the authorities, the captors of the slaves snuck them into Alabama at dark hours and made them hide in the swamp for several days. To get rid of any hard evidence, they put the 86-foot Clotilda on fire on the banks of Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Ship’s remains are believed to be uncovered in the upcoming month.

If it wasn’t for Zora Neale Hurston – an anthropologist and a known figure of the Harlem Renaissance – we may have never heard Cudjo’s story from Cudjo himself. Some 60 years after the abolition of slavery, she made an amazing discovery and located the last surviving captive – Cudjo – of the last slave ship to bring African slaves to the United States.

Zora went on to conduct numerous interviews with Cudjo, but struggled to get them published. One of the main reasons for rejection, was that Zora refused to alter Cudjo’s words for them to fit into the frames of the standard American English. At that time, her anthropological interviews were often seen as controversial due to the use of vernacular dialogue.

Even some black American thinkers thought that the use of vernacular might enforce the caricaturist views of the black people inside the minds of the white people. Zora wasn’t the one to back down, and the book with interviews with Cudjo was only published in May 2018 and it was named Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”.

Zora’s book tells the story of Cudjo Lewis and his life. The heartbreaking narrative provides a first-hand look at the trauma enforced by slavery.

After Cudjo was abducted from his home, he was forced onto a ship with hundreds of strangers. They wound up spending several months together, only to be separated in Alabama to go to work in different plantations.

“We very sorry to be parted from one ’nother,” Lewis recalled. “We seventy days cross de water from de Africa soil, and now dey part us from one ’nother. Therefore we cry. Our grief so heavy look lak we cain stand it. I think maybe I die in my sleep when I dream about my mama.”

Cudjo also describes what it was like to arrive on a plantation where no one could speak his language and explain to where he was, what was going on, what was he ought to do. “We doan know why we be bring ’way from our country to work lak dis. Everybody lookee at us strange. We want to talk wid de udder colored folkses but dey doan know whut we say.”

Understandably, Mr Lewis expected to receive compensation for being captured and forced into slavery and was angry to find out that the long-awaited emancipation didn’t come with the promise of “forty acres and a mule,” or any other kind of reparations. Bitter and frustrated, Cudjo, together with a group of 31 other free people saved up enough money to buy land near the state capital Mobile, which they called Africatown.

Today, the monument of Cudjo Lewis proudly stands in Africatown, Mobile, Alabama, reminding of the struggles its people endured. It was sculpted back in 2016 by April Terra Livingston and is located in front of the Union Missionary Baptist Church.