A team of researchers is returning to the shores of Alabama to examine the sunken remnants of Clotilda –– the last known ship to transport enslaved African people to the US just 162 years ago.
The Alabama Historical Commission announced a 10-day evaluation of the ship's wreckage will begin Monday (May 2), AL.com reported. The Commission described the remnants as the most complete of any ship used in the slave trade ever discovered.
The wreckage was first identified in 2019 and parts of the ship have been brought to the surface, though the lower half used to hold abducted African people remains completely intact at the bottom of the Mobile River.
"It is a tremendous duty to ensure that Clotilda is evaluated and preserved," said Aaron Jozsef, project manager for Resolve Marine –– the salvage service company hired by the Commission for work on the ship.
According to historical records, the Clotilda was deliberately sunk in the Mobile River after illegally unloading 110 West African captives in Alabama in 1860 –– 52 years after the US Congress outlawed the international slave trade. Some have called for the ship's remnants to be displayed in a new museum currently being discussed. The efforts of this latest evaluation will help determine if such a feat is possible.
Records indicate that the Clotilda's voyage was financed by a wealthy businessman in Alabama named Timothy Meaher –– whose descendants still own large amounts of land in and around the Mobile area.
After the Civil War, some of the enslaved Africans aboard Clotilda founded Africatown USA, a small community north of Mobile. Many of their descendants still live in the area.