Dreams of Africa in Alabama

Dreams of Africa in Alabama

The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America

Book - 2007
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In the summer of 1860, more than fifty years after the United States legally abolished the international slave trade, 110 men, women, and children from Benin and Nigeria were brought ashore in Alabama under cover of night. They were the last recorded group of Africans deported to the UnitedStates as slaves. Timothy Meaher, an established Mobile businessman, sent the slave ship, the Clotilda , to Africa, on a bet that he could "bring a shipful of niggers right into Mobile Bay under the officers' noses." He won the bet.This book reconstructs the lives of the people in West Africa, recounts their capture and passage in the slave pen in Ouidah, and describes their experience of slavery alongside American-born enslaved men and women. After emancipation, the group reunited from various plantations, bought land, andfounded their own settlement, known as African Town. They ruled it according to customary African laws, spoke their own regional language and, when giving interviews, insisted that writers use their African names so that their families would know that they were still alive.The last survivor of the Clotilda died in 1935, but African Town is still home to a community of Clotilda descendants. The publication of Dreams of Africa in Alabama marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 2007.
ISBN: 9780195311044
Characteristics: x, 340 p. : ill., facisms. ; 24 cm.


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Jul 27, 2018

The Clotilda was the last slave ship to bring Africans to the US, done on a bet. The transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1808, and the government tried to stop it, as the internal slave trade was more lucrative. Numbers of Africans imported vary after 1808, but no one disputes that the Clotilda was the last, landing in Mobile a year before the outbreak of the Civil War. Diouf researched life in West Africa, specifically Benin, where the Clotilda bought 110 captives. They came from various cultures and spoke various languages; ages ranged from late teens to late 20s. These were what slave buyers in the South called "prime hands," the most valuable to work the cotton fields. Back home, some had many more valuable skills, some were nobles, but all were ripped from their families and homes. This group's Middle Passage was typical, though few if any died. In spite of language differences, captives formed a close-knit group based on African culture. On landing, they were forced into the swamps for weeks, starved, the ship scuttled and burned. Eventually the captain who brought them and the family involved in bringing them divided up most of them. They were always outsiders; always Africans. After Emancipation, they wanted to go home to Africa. Becoming hopeless, they stayed close to the plantations where they'd worked, buying land, founding African Town, helping each other build a school, churches, subsistence farm, as they would have in Africa. The town still exists, as a neighborhood of Mobile. A fascinating, well researched and written book.

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