In 1860, more than half a century after the slave trade was federally abolished, the Clotilda sailed into Mobile, Alabama, carrying 110 enslaved West Africans. The human cargo was unloaded, and the schooner was set alight to hide the evidence. But its impact can still be felt in Africatown, a district established after Emancipation by those who had arrived on the ship. Many residents can still trace their lineage to those founders.
The Clotilda remained lost until 2019 when, more than 150 years after it sank, archaeologists discovered the remains at the bottom of the Mobile River. Scholars have since been studying the submerged ship in hopes of unearthing the many stories it might tell.
In 2023, the Alabama Historical Commission and the History Museum of Mobile will unveil a landmark project: the Africatown Heritage House, an interpretive center that will house the pieces that have been recovered so far. The museum will also tell the dramatic stories of kidnapped West Africans and the resilient Black community they created — the subject of works like Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier,” Zora Neal Hurston’s "Barracoon: The Story of the Last 'Black Cargo,'” and the Netflix documentary "Descendant," presented by Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground Productions.