Wreck of the last slave ship from Africa are from Alabama coast

connectVideoSurvivor of the last American slave ship identified

Dr. Hannah durkin of the british University of Newcastle has determined that the identity of the last survivor of the last American slave ship. Redoshi, given the slave name “Sally Smith,” was kidnapped from West Africa at the age of 12 years, after a residence of five years as a slave, died in Alabama in 1937 at the age of 89 or 90. Previously, the last survivor of the trans-atlantic slave trade, it was thought that Oluale Kossola, also known as Cudjo Lewis died in 1935.

Researchers have located the remains of the last known ship to have brought slaves to the US from West Africa, Alabama historical officials announced Wednesday.

The Alabama Historical Commission confirmed that the Wave schooner Clotilda was identified and authenticated after months of assessment.

“For nearly 160 years, the waters around Mobile have hidden the final destination of the Wave Schooner Clotilda,” the commission said in a statement.


“The discovery of the Clotilda is an exceptional archaeological discovery,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, director of the commission. “The trip represented one of the darkest periods of modern history and an in-depth exploration of the tangible evidence of slavery.”

In 1860, the Clotilda illegally carried 110 men, women, and children on the Mobile of what is now the African country of Benin. The ship was then in the delta waters north of the port and burned.

Redoshi, described as “Aunt Sally Smith,” appeared briefly in a 1930s public information film with the title “the Black Farmer”, which was produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
(U. S. Department of Agriculture/National Archives)

The dimensions and construction of the wreck match those of the Clotilda, the commission says, such as building materials, including locally sourced wood, and metal pieces made out of cast iron. There are also signs of fire.

“We are careful about placing names on wrecks of ships that no longer have a name or something like a clock with the name of the ship, maritime archaeologist James Delgado said in a statement. “But the physical and forensic evidence powerfully suggests that this is Clotilda.”


According to National Geographic, the smuggling business was created out of a bet by rich Mobile landowner and shipbuilder Tim Meaher, who bet on a group of Northern entrepreneurs who he could bring slaves into Alabama.

The import of slaves in the U.S. had been illegal since 1808 and the federal anti-piracy legislation was changed in 1820 to participate in the trade punishable by death. However, the ban did not deter smugglers who traveled the Atlantic ocean with wooden ships full of people in chains. Southern plantation owners needed workers for their cotton fields.

This chimney in Africatown, Mobile, Ala., is the last remaining original structure from the days when the survivors of the Clotilda inhabited the area. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

According to the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, about 25 of the Africans who were taken aboard the Clotilda were sold to slave traders. Sixty others were divvied between Meaher and two of his family members, while “between five and eight” were given to the captain of the ship, William Foster as payment for the trip.

The prisoners were freed from slavery after the civil war, and about 30 of them used the money earned working in the fields, houses, and ships to purchase land from the Meaher family and to settle in a community that is still known as Africatown.


“Residents of Africatown have carried the memory of their ancestors, which were hard and intense, migrated from Africa to the coast of Alabama,” the commission said. “Since then, the last chapter of the Clotilda story is shrouded in mystery.”

The commission is expected to release the full report on their research to Clotilda next week at the celebrations in Africatown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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