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Last American Slave Ship Is Discovered In Alabama


Well-Known Member
Just wow....
Last American slave ship is discovered in Alabama

Joel K. Bourne, Jr.
2 hrs ago

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What the discovery of the last American slave ship means to descendants

What the discovery of the last American slave ship means to descendants

National Geographic
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What the discovery of the last American slave ship means to descendants

The schooner Clotilda—the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to America’s shores—has been discovered in a remote arm of Alabama’s Mobile River following an intensive yearlong search by marine archaeologists.

"Descendants of the Clotilda survivors have dreamed of this discovery for generations," says Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) and the State Historic Preservation Officer. "We’re thrilled to announce that their dream has finally come true."

The captives who arrived aboard Clotilda were the last of an estimated 389,000 Africans delivered into bondage in mainland America from the early 1600s to 1860. Thousands of vessels were involved in the transatlantic trade, but very few slave wrecks have ever been found.

  • [img title="
    Maritime archaeologist James Delgado scans a section of the Mobile River during the search for
a close up of a fence: A mural of the Clotilda adorns a concrete embankment in Africatown, a community near Mobile founded by Africans illegally transported to Alabama aboard the slave ship. Some of their descendants still live in the neighborhood.
National Geographic Society, which supported the search. "This finding is also a critical piece of the story of Africatown, which was built by the resilient descendants of America’s last slave ship."

Rare firsthand accounts left by the slaveholders as well as their victims offer a one-of-a-kind window into the Atlantic slave trade, says Sylviane Diouf, a noted historian of the African diaspora.

"It’s the best documented story of a slave voyage in the Western Hemisphere," says Diouf, whose 2007 book, Dreams of Africa in Alabama, chronicles the Clotilda’s saga. "The captives were sketched, interviewed, even filmed," she says, referring to some who lived into the 20th century. "The person who organized the trip talked about it. The captain of the ship wrote about it. So we have the story from several perspectives. I haven’t seen anything of that sort anywhere else."

It began with a bet
Clotilda’s story began when Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Mobile landowner and shipbuilder, allegedly wagered several Northern businessmen a thousand dollars that he could smuggle a cargo of Africans into Mobile Bay under the nose of federal officials.

Importing slaves into the United States had been illegal since 1808, and southern plantation owners had seen prices in the domestic slave trade skyrocket. Many, including Meaher, were advocating for reopening the trade.

Meaher chartered a sleek, swift schooner named Clotilda and enlisted its builder, Captain William Foster, to sail it to the notorious slave port of Ouidah in present-day Benin to buy captives. Foster left West Africa with 110 young men, women, and children crowded into the schooner’s hold. One girl reportedly died during the brutal six-week voyage. Purchased for $9,000 in gold, the human cargo was worth more than 20 times that amount in 1860 Alabama.

Slide 1 of 4: Patricia Frazier carries the flag of Benin, the modern nation once ruled by the kingdom of Dahomey, who sold more than a hundred captives to the captain of the Clotilda. "If they find that ship, I think it will make people more aware of our history," says Frazier. "Sometimes you need something tangible to spur those memories."
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, agrees.

"There are many examples today—the Tulsa race riots of 1921, this story, even the Holocaust—where some people say it never happened. Now, because of the archaeology, the archival research, the science combined with the collective memories of the community, it can't be refuted. They are now connected to their ancestors in a tangible way, knowing this story is true." (Their ancestors survived slavery. Can their descendants save the town they built?)

The hunt for lost history
Several attempts to locate Clotilda’s remains have been made over the years, but the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is rife with sloughs, oxbows, and bayous, as well as scores of shipwrecks from more than three centuries of maritime activity. Then in January 2018, a local journalist reported that he had discovered the remains of a large wooden ship during an abnormally low tide. The AHC, which owns all abandoned ships in Alabama’s state waters, called in the archaeology firm Search, Inc., to investigate the hulk.

The vessel in question turned out to be another ship, but the false alarm focused national attention on the long-lost slaver. The incident also prompted the AHC to fund further research in partnership with the National Geographic Society and Search, Inc.

Researchers combed through hundreds of original sources from the period and analyzed records of more than 2,000 ships that were operating in the Gulf of Mexico during the late 1850s. They discovered that Clotilda was one of only five Gulf-built schooners then insured. Registration documents provided detailed descriptions of the schooner, including its construction and dimensions.

"Clotilda was an atypical, custom-built vessel," says maritime archaeologist James Delgado of Search, Inc. "There was only one Gulf-built schooner 86 feet long with a 23-foot beam and a six-foot, 11-inch hold, and that was Clotilda."

Records also noted that the schooner was built of southern yellow pine planking over white oak frames and was outfitted with a 13-foot-long centerboard that could be raised or lowered as needed to access shallow harbors.

Based on their research of possible locations, Delgado and Alabama state archaeologist Stacye Hathorn focused on a stretch of the Mobile River that had never been dredged. Deploying divers and an array of devices—a magnetometer for detecting metal objects, a side-scan sonar for locating structures on and above the river bottom, and a sub-bottom profiler for detecting objects buried beneath the mucky riverbed—they discovered a veritable graveyard of sunken ships.

Most were easily eliminated: wrong size, metal hull, wrong type of wood. But one vessel, labeled Target 5, stood out from the rest. It "matched everything on record about Clotilda," says Delgado, including its design and dimensions, the type of wood and metal used in its construction, and evidence that it had burned.

Samples of wood recovered from Target 5 are white oak and southern yellow pine from the Gulf coast. The archaeologists also found the remains of a centerboard of the correct size.

Metal fasteners from its hull are made of hand-forged pig iron, the same type known to have been used on Clotilda. And there’s evidence that the hull was originally sheathed with copper, as was then common practice for oceangoing merchant vessels.

No nameplate or other inscribed artifacts conclusively identified the wreck, Delgado says, "but looking at the various pieces of evidence, you can reach a point beyond reasonable doubt."

A national slave ship memorial?
The wreck of Clotilda now carries the dreams of Africatown, which has suffered from declining population, poverty, and a host of environmental insults from heavy industries that surround the community. Residents hope that the wreck will generate tourism and bring businesses and employment back to their streets. Some have even suggested it be raised and put on display.

The community was recently awarded nearly $3.6 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon legal settlement to rebuild a visitor center destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. But what’s left of the burned-out wreck is in very poor condition, says Delgado. Restoring it would cost many millions of dollars.

But a national slave ship memorial—akin to the watery grave of the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor—might be an option. There visitors could reflect on the horrors of the slave trade and be reminded of Africa’s enormous contribution to the making of America.

"We are still living in the wake of slavery," says Paul Gardullo, director of the Center for the Study of Global Slavery at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a member of the Slave Wrecks Project that was involved in the search for Clotilda. “We continue to be confronted by slavery. It keeps popping up because we haven’t dealt with this past. If we do our work right, we have an opportunity not just to reconcile, but to make some real change.”

The Alabama Historical Commission will release the official archaeology report at a community celebration in Africatown on Thursday, May 30.


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Well-Known Member
So he was taken from the area of Benin at age 19. Does the article mention his native language which he should speak very well even if he had not had to use it in a long time.

No, the article does not mention his native language. But, funny that you mention language, because after my friend and I exchanged these articles, I sent her information about one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Black churches in the States.

It's the First African Baptist Church, located in Savannah, Georgia. I've been wanting to visit. It was built by slaves in the 1700s, and throughout the church, these slaves wrote their native language which was Hebrew.

I know, for many on the board, saying that we are the true Israelites is a touchy and taboo subject, however, I absolutely believe that we are the Israelites of the Bible, and I see Israel as being apart of Africa.

People that know Hebrew know that the writing is true Hebrew, but I believe it might be considered Paleo Hebrew (not fully sure) rather than modern Hebrew, but you'll find academic sources referring to the Hebrew writing in the church, as some ancient African language they call, "Cursive Hebrew." LOL. The powers that be, are trying to disassociate us with having any connection to Israel or Hebrew.

In case you're interested, here are some quick links about the church.




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Last Known U.S. Slave Ship, the Clotilda, Said to Have Been Discovered In Alabama

Aliya Semper Ewing

33 minutes ago
Filed to: African American History


Photo: Bojan Jeremic/ iStock
On Wednesday researchers announced they’ve located the remains of the last known ship known to bring enslaved Africans to what we now call The United States.

According to the Alabama Historical Commission, slave importing was officially banned in 1808, though an illegal trans-Atlantic slave trade continued for many years. In 1860, fifty years after importing slaves was deemed ‘illegal’, a ship named the Clotilda illegally transported 110 people from present day Benin on the west coast of Africa, to Mobile, Alabama. After it’s delivery of black people to slave owners, just one year before the Civil War, the ship was burned to destroy evidence of its illegal activity.

“The discovery of the Clotilda is an extraordinary archaeological find,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission, in a statement, “The voyage represented one of the darkest eras of modern history and is a profound discovery of the tangible evidence of slavery.”

As the story has been told by historian Natalie S. Robertson , the treacherous slave trade was literally a game for some. Alabama plantation owner Timothy Meaher made a bet with someone that he and his people could evade detection and bring a shipload of Africans across the ocean. And so a schooner, Clotilda, set sail.

“They were smuggling people as much for defiance as for sport,” Robertson said.

If the name Clotilda sounds familiar it’s probably because you remember when The Root founder, Henry Louis Gates Jr., met with The Roots’ Questlove to trace his lineage back to Africa. What Gates discovered is that Quest’s direct ancestors were listed as being on board that very ship.

The Africans who came on The Clotilda spent the next five years as slaves during the American Civil War and were freed only after the South had lost. Because they had no means to return home to Africa, about 30 of them used money earned working in fields, as maids and house-servants, or on ships, to purchase land from the Meaher family and create an all-black community still known to this day as Africatown.

This week National Geographic spoke with other descendants of founders of Africatown about what the re-discovery of The Clotilda means to them and their community:

Authorities are working on preserving the shipwreck in place where it’s been found.


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