1BA704 - Clotilda

In May 2019, after a comprehensive assessment and months of research, the Alabama Historical Commission announced experts and archaeological evidence determined the identity of the Clotilda - the last-known slave ship to enter the United States. The storied ship illegally transported 110 people from Benin, Africa to Mobile, Alabama in 1860, more than 50 years after the United States banned the importation of enslaved people to the country. Co-conspirators, Timothy Meaher and Captain William Foster made an effort to evade authorities and destroy evidence of their criminal voyage by sinking, burning, and abandoning the vessel and then dividing the kidnapped Africans among their captors, where they remained in slavery until the end of the Civil War. A small band of the Clotilda passengers reunited post-war with the hopes of returning to Africa. When that dream was not realized, the survivors and their descendants established a new home for themselves in the Plateau area of Mobile – a community which is now known today as Africatown.

 For more than twenty years, the Alabama Historical Commission – the State Historic Preservation Office – has been supporting the effort to find the Clotilda, issuing permits and grant funding to archaeologists and firms since 1997. Now that the vessel has been identified by scientific experts contracted by the Alabama Historical Commission and National Geographic Society, the agency has been focused on being methodical and deliberate with all considerations for its preservation. Thanks to the support and funding from Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature, AHC has been able to continue conducting research to inform a science-based management plan for preservation of this important archaeological site. Field work was conducted to collect the scientific samples in May of 2022. Once all of the samples are analyzed, a report that recommends the best path forward to preserve the Clotilda for future generations will be produced, peer reviewed, and the final result shared with stakeholders.