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Wreckage of the Last U.S. Slave Ship Is Finally Identified in Alabama

May 23, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

It was torched and then sunk to the bottom of a river, but historians say they have now identified the remains of the last ship to carry slaves to the U.S.

After much searching, researchers have finally located the last U.S. slave ship, the Clotilda, at the bottom of the Mobile River in Alabama. The announcement comes one year after the publication of Zora Neale Hurston’s lost interview with a survivor of that ship, and just a month after a scholar discovered the last Clotilda survivor lived until 1937. It holds special significance for the residents of Africatown, Alabama, many of whom are descended from the Africans illegally trafficked on the Clotilda in 1860.

“It’s a wonderful discovery,” says Sylviane A. Diouf, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and author of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America. “This is the only one so far that has been found which came directly from Africa to the Americas with people on board.” (The recently-discovered São José was on its way to Brazil but crashed in South Africa near Cape Town.)

Life Aboard a Slave Ship (TV-PG; 4:02)

The discovery is also significant because the Clotilda is already the most well-documented slave ship story in the Americas. “If it had only been a ship without the story, then that’s interesting,” Diouf says. “But we have the entire story. So this is the first time that we have the entire story of what happened to the people who were on the ship and we have the ship as well.”

The research initiative that found the Clotilda was partly motivated by the discovery of another ship in January 2018 that some thought might have been the Clotlida. Afterward, the Alabama Historical Commission funded further efforts to find the the Clotilda, which a slave trader had burned and then sunk to the bottom of the river to hide the evidence of its illegal journey.

Excavators ended up combing through a section of the Mobile River that had never been dredged before. Among the many sunken ships there, they found one that historians could confidently say matched the description of the Clotilda.

On January 2, 2018, in Mobile County, Alabama, remains of a ship were found that were originally …read more

Source: HISTORY

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