The new publication comes at a time of stark division in contemporary American life. On the one hand, cultural institutions are turning new attention to the realities of slavery and on slaves’ individual lives. Consider, for example, Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad, Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave, and the newly opened Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

At the same time, white supremacy in the US is increasingly visible. Hundreds of people marched in the name of white nationalism in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. And just two weeks ago in Atlanta, Georgia, a few dozen people gathered to rally, brandishing torches and Nazi salutes.

Lois Hurston Gaston, a grand niece of Hurston, told the New York Times that the book still feels relevant today. “Racial issues have not gone away in our country, and we felt that this was an opportune time to publish Barracoon,” she said. “It’s an important time in our cultural history, and here we have the story of Cudjo Lewis to remind us of what happens when we lose sight of our humanity.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.