Remains of ship found in Gulf Coast could be the last known U.S. slave ship
According to a report from Ben Raines of Al.com, researchers may have found the long-buried and forgotten remains of the Clotilda, the ship widely believed to be either the last or among the last ships to complete voyages that brought Africans to America, entangling them in slavery. The ship was at least partially buried in mud along an island in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, located a few miles north of the city of Mobile, Alabama. The wreckage was completely underwater until it was exposed by the extreme low tides brought in by the weather patterns of the “Bomb Cyclone” on the East Coast.
John Sledge, a senior historian with the Mobile Historical Commission says of the find: “I’m quaking with excitement. This would be a story of world historical significance, if this is the Clotilda… It’s certainly in the right vicinity… We always knew it should be right around there.”
“During my first trips after discovering the wreck, I documented it with photographs and aerials shot with a drone,” Raines detailed. “Over the next week, I ferried a shipwright expert in the construction techniques used on old wooden vessels and a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida to the site. All concluded that the wreck dated to the mid 1800s (the Clotilda was built in 1855), and featured construction techniques typical of Gulf Coast schooners used to haul lumber and other heavy cargo, as the Clotilda was designed to do.”
The name Clotilda may sound familiar to those who have been keeping up with the news that Zora Neale Hurston is releasing a book later this year called Barracoon. In the book, Hurston interviews Cudjoe Lewis, born Oluale Kossola in the West African country of Benin, who was enslaved and brought over on the ship, and was later instrumental in founding the free Black city of African Town.
There is another book written by Sylviana A. Diouf called Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and The Last Africans Brought to America which chronicles both the construction of the ship and the ship heading to Benin to purchase Africans to bring to Mobile. In Mobile, the Africans were unloaded and transported to another ship to be sold and the two white men responsible, William Foster and Timothy Meaher, later faced charges for not registering with the port after an international trip. These were the only charges despite slave trading being illegal at that point in the United States, and due to the outbreak of the Civil War the case was forgotten and the two men essentially were allowed to go on with their lives.