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Last American Slave Ship – the Clotida – Found on Alabama Coast?

Image: Last American Slave Ship – the Clotida – Found on Alabama Coast?

Aerial photo taken Tuesday shows remains of a ship that could be the Clotilda, the last slave ship documented to have delivered captive Africans to the United States. (Ben Raines/Al.com via AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 24 January 2018 01:02 PM

The last American slave ship, the Clotida, may have been found along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, on a small island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Remains of the ship were covered with mud, but its starboard side was exposed thanks to a low tide brought on by a weather system that left water in the area 2½ feet lower than normal, AL.com reported on Tuesday.

AL.com reporter Ben Raines said he found the location a few miles north of Mobile after researching possible places where the ship could be by reviewing historical accounts and interviewing those with knowledge of the area.

"I'm quaking with excitement," John Sledge told AL.com. He’s a senior historian with Mobile Historical Commission, and author of The Mobile River, an exhaustive history of the river.

"This would be a story of world historical significance, if this is the Clotilda. It's certainly in the right vicinity... We always knew it should be right around there."

The Clotida’s captain, William Foster, wrote that he burned and sunk the ship, according to AL.com. Slaver traders had allegedly bragged of burning the ship, to hide proof of their human trafficking, after its final voyage in which 100 slaves were brought in on July of 1860.

"These ships were the 18-wheelers of their day," Winthrop Turner, a shipwright specializing in wooden vessels, told AL.com. "They were designed to haul a huge amount of cargo in relatively shallow water. That's why you see the exceptional number of big iron drifts used to hold the planking together.”

"That's also why the sides of the ship are so stout. They are almost two feet thick. The construction techniques here, no threaded bolts, iron drifts, butt jointed planking, these all confirm a ship built between 1850 and 1880," Turner said.

Even though the Clotida is believed to be the last ship to bring slaves into the U.S., according to History.com, the U.S. had long before outlawed bringing in slaves from Africa, ending the practice in 1807. The practice of shipping captives from Africa, though, continued to Brazil and Cuba into the 1860s.

Archaeologists stressed that a conclusive determination that the remains are those of the Clotida can only be made by documenting any artifacts that remain in the hold, if possible, AL.com said.

Researchers have only examined the parts of the ship that can be seen above the mud that encases most of the hull, and any digging would require both federal and state permits, along with funding, AL.com said.

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The last American slave ship, the Clotida, may have been found along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, on a small island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
clotida, american, slave ship, alabama coast
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2018-02-24
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 01:02 PM
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