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May 12, 2022

Alabama Shipwreck Holds Key to the Past for Descendants of Enslaved Africans: “Be Sure That That Legacy Lives On”

Keys to the past and the future of a community descended from enslaved Africans lie in a river bottom on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where the remains of the last known U.S. slave ship rest a few miles from what’s left of the village built by newly freed people after the Civil War.

Work performed this month will help answer a question residents of the area called Africatown USA are anxious to resolve: Can remnants of the slave ship Clotilda be retrieved from the water to both fill out details about their heritage and to serve as an attraction that might revitalize the place their ancestors built after emancipation?

A crew hired by the Alabama Historical Commission, working over 10 days ending Thursday, took fallen trees off the submerged remains of the ship, scooped muck out of the hull and retrieved displaced pieces to see what’s left of the Clotilda, which is described as the most intact slave ship ever found. The work will help determine what, if anything, can be done with the wreckage in years ahead.

Some want a museum featuring the actual Clotilda, which was hired by a rich, white steamship captain on a bet to violate the U.S. ban on slave importation the year before the Confederacy was founded to preserve slavery and white supremacy in the South.

“The question is, give me a timetable. What’s the date for getting that boat out of that doggone water?” Africatown resident and activist Joe Womack asked team members during a public forum as work began. Nearby, a new “heritage house” that could display artifacts is under construction.

You can read more in an article published in the CBS News web site at:  https://cbsn.ws/3FOaZpW.

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