Episode 47 Clotilda and Africa Town

The last ship to bring slaves to America arrived in Alabama’s Mobile Bay in 1860, carrying in its hull more than 100 Africans who had been kidnapped from their villages and sold into slavery. The slavers hid the evidence of their illegal operation by burning and sinking the Clotilda in the Mobile River Delta. For over 150 years, the ship was shrouded in mystery, until an Alabama environmentalist and reporter found it in 2018. 

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Ben Raines holds a piece of Clotilda moments after discovering her in April of 2018 Photo: Facebook/Ben Raines
Ben Raines share about his continued search for Clotilda when others gave up Video: WPMI Tv Mobile, Alabama

This May, the Alabama Historical Commission met with descendants of captives aboard the Clotilda and residents of Africa Town, to share that the Clotilda had been discovered the discovery confirmed by international investigators.

Jocelyn Davis, a descendant of a person carried to the U.S. on the last slave ship, Clotilda, recalls her reaction when she learned the ship’s wreckage had been found. Video: AL.com)

Following the emancipation and freedom of slaves, including the Clotilda captives, there were few options for former slaves in the south. The Clotilda captives sought repatriation from the US Government but were denied. Cudjoe Lewis and 31 fellow Clotilda captives were able to pool enough money to buy land from the man who had enslaved them. They decided that if they could not go home to Africa, they would bring Africa to America with their Alabama settlement near Mobile. They called it Africa Town.

Cudjoe Lewis, Oluale Kossola, was known as the last surviving captive of the Clotilda when he died in 1935. It’s now known that Sally Smith, Redoshi, was the last survivor, when she died in 1937.

Zora Neale Hurston’s rare 1928 footage from interview with Cudjoe Lewis (  Oluale Kossola)
Sally Smith (Redoshi) was the last survivor of the Clotilda when she died in 1937. See her in this US Government video about struggles of former slaves who became farmers

Episode Sources

“Man who found Clotilda kept looking when others gave up”. WPMI My NBC 15 TV. 23 May 2019.
“Ship of Horror’: Discovery of the Last Slave Ship to America Brings New Hope to an Old Community”. New York Times. 26 May 2019.
“Last American slave ship is discovered in Alabama”. National Geographic. 22 May 2019
“The Clotilda: A Finding Aid”National Archives.
“Forced Marriage as a 12-Year-Old Girl: The Life of America’s Last Slave Ship Survivor” History.com. 4 April 2019.
“The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced” History.com. 4 June 2019.
“Alabama Historians Say The Last Known Slave Ship To U.S. Has Been Found” NPR. 22 May 2019.


Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.

Additional Music

“Lost Time”, “Crowd Hammer”, “Dark Fog”, and “Resolution” by Kevin MacLeod; “I Am A Man” by Dan Lebowitz; “Sugar Pines” by Wes Hutchison; “Shawdowlands” by Purple Planet Music Licensed under Creative Commons

Categories: alabama, folklore, history, mysteries, podcasts

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