Wreck of last slave ship that ferried 100s of captives from Africa to the US illegally found off Alabama coast
THE wreck of the last slave ship that was illegally transporting people from Africa to the US way after slavery had been banned has been discovered off the coast of Alabama.
The ship was called the Clotilda and it had been sunk and burnt after its last journey in the hope that it would never be found.
The Alabama Historical Commission confirmed that the shipwreck of the Clotilda has been identified after months of assessment.
The commission said: “For nearly 160 years, the waters around Mobile [Alabama] have concealed the final destination of the Gulf Schooner Clotilda.
Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the commission, added: “The discovery of the Clotilda is an extraordinary archaeological find.
“The voyage represented one of the darkest eras of modern history and is a profound discovery of the tangible evidence of slavery.”
Slavery was made illegal in the US in 1808 and punishable by death in 1820.
However, in 1860 Clotilda is known to have illegally transported 110 men, women and children from what is now the African country of Benin to a place called Mobile in Alabama, US.
The shipwreck remains show proof of the fire that ultimately destroyed the Clotilda and its dimensions and locally sourced US building materials all make up strong evidence that the last slave ship has finally been found.
Maritime archaeologist James Delgado said in a statement: “We are cautious about placing names on shipwrecks that no longer bear a name or something like a bell with the ship’s name on it but the physical and forensic evidence powerfully suggests that this is Clotilda.”
According to National Geographic, the illegal venture happened because a wealthy landowner from Alabama and a local shipbuilder called Tim Meaher bet a group of Northern businessmen that he could bring slaves to Alabama even though it was against the law.
People would be taken from African, put in chains and trapped on slaves ships so that they could be transported to the US and be forced to work.
Lots of slaves in places like Alabama were forced to work on cotton plantations.
According to the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, of all the enslaved African people on the Clotilda, 25 were sold to slave traders, up to eight were given to the ship’s captain as payment for the voyage and 60 more were given to shipbuilder Meaher and two of his relatives.
Conditions were so awful for captives on slave ships that lots of them would die on the journey.
Slavery was one of the main reasons for the American Civil War from 1861-1865 and when it ended all captives were freed from slavery.
Documents show that 30 slaves from the Clotilda used money that they had earned whilst being forced to work to buy land from the Meaher family and settle in a community called Africatown.
The commission said: “Residents of Africatown have carried the memory of their ancestors who were forcefully and violently migrated from Africa to the shores of Alabama.
“Since then, the final chapter of the Clotilda story has been shrouded in mystery.”
What was the slave trade?
Here’s a brief history of the US slave trade…
- Slavery in the US primarily involved taking people from Africa and forcing them to work in the US as cheap labourers
- This occurred mostly in the 18th and 19th centuries although slavery existed long before this all over the world and amongst many different nationalities
- Lots of slaves were sold by West African traders to Western European slave traders but some were also captured from their homes during coastal raids
- It is often thought that slavery in America started in 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 African slaves to Virginia
- When the US declared that it was independent from Great Britain in 1776, slavery was legal in all 13 of the early British America colonies
- Even though slavery in the US was made illegal in 1808, it continued to happen until 1865 when the American Civil War ended
- Black slaves worked mainly on the tobacco, rice, indigo and cotton plantations
- They would be sold like cattle, whipped, barely paid or not paid at all and murdered if they tried to escape
- Slave rebellions did occur but most of them were not successful
- Lots of people in the North of British America turned against slavery and tried to help lots of slaves escape from the South so they could start new lives as free people
- Estimates suggest that in total around 10.5 million African slaves arrived in America but over a million more could have died on the way
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How much do you know about the history of the slave trade? Let us know in the comments…