Alabama to exhibit artifacts from last US slave ship

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The state of Alabama will provide artifacts from the last slave ship to dock in the United States for a special public exhibition later this year, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Historical Commission, in a statement, said an exhibit named for the slave ship Clotilda is set to open this fall in Mobile, where the schooner arrived with African captives in 1860.

The artifacts include pieces of wood and metal taken from a muddy river bottom where the ship was discovered, said Jim Delgado, a maritime archaeologist who helped identify the wreck.

The History Museum of Mobile will add pieces from its own collection to help tell the story of the port’s maritime history, the commission said. The city is working on plans for a new facility to house the exhibition.

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“Through this exhibit and collaborative effort, everyone will have the opportunity to experience the moving story of the Clotilda and its survivors,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the state agency.

To settle a bet between wealthy white men on whether slaves could be imported into the South in defiance of a federal ban, the wooden ship illegally transported 110 people from west Africa to Alabama, where they became slaves.

The freed people later settled in a community called Africatown, which still exists and will be the site of the exhibition.

The United States banned the importation of slaves in 1808, but smugglers kept traveling the Atlantic with wooden ships full of people in chains. Southern plantation owners demanded workers for their cotton fields.

Remains of the twin-masted Clotilda were discovered in late 2018 near an island where the ship was believed to have been scuttled and burned north of downtown Mobile shortly after unloading the captives. Only a few artifacts were removed from the wreck, and a judge awarded custody of the items to the Alabama Historical Commission.

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