A black neighborhood reacts to finding the slave ship that brought their ancestors to America


-53 years after importing slaves
became illegal in America, a ship called the Clotilda
smuggled 110 people from Africa through the Mobile River. It’s the last known
American slave ship. And for years, people thought
it had been destroyed. But today, descendants
of that journey are commemorating
its discovery. What emotional significance does
the Clotilda have for you? -Well, I am a direct descendant
of Charlie Lewis. Charlie Lewis was one of
the survivors of the Clotilda. It gives me chills thinking
about the voyage that they went through
coming over. I imagine myself being on there. That’s the only thing that
I can think about that ship, is that he actually
survived that voyage. -Ben Raines spearheaded
an expedition that ultimately led
to finding the Clotilda. And he showed me the route
the ship took to avoid getting caught. -The people had been kept
in the hold this whole voyage. You know, two months stacked up
in there, 110 people in the belly
of a 90-foot long ship. So they couldn’t lay down. You know,
it was really torturous. -Slavery was abolished
just five years after Joycelyn’s ancestors
got to America. But they had no way
of going home, so they created Africatown. And that’s where
she still lives today. -Africatown is a story
of resilience. You know, these people were
brought here, abandoned, had to buy
the land they lived on. They built a community where they spoke
their native African tongue. They made a school where they taught
their traditional methods. They farmed in African style. -Finding the Clotilda is deeply
personal and transformative for this community, but it’s also
much bigger than that. -A lot of people need
to understand what this means in terms of the history
of the enterprise of slavery and the human suffering
that is connected to that. -What is the symbolic importance
of finding the Clotilda? -There’s this thing about
African-American history and this traumatic experience
that folks want to hide. They don’t want it discovered. They want to forget about it. -The significance
of finding Clotilda is absolutely monumental. We are resurrecting the voices
of those people that was on this vessel. We are restoring memory
and restoring cultural heritage, particularly to the people
of Africatown and descendant communities. -For a lot of black Americans,
you can only go so far back charting your ancestry until things start
to become a mystery. And that’s a testament
to the horrors of slavery. But for people like Joycelyn,
the Clotilda represents a type of accountability
that’s rare in America. What does it mean to you that
the Clotilda has been found? -The people who brought us
over thinking that they got away with it, after 159 years,
you know, thinking that, “Hey, they’re not ever gonna
find this ship,” so that’s the relief
that I have that they found it. Because they thought that
this day would never come. ♪ Wade in the water ♪ ♪ Wade in the water ♪ ♪ Children, wade in the water ♪ ♪ God’s gonna trouble
the water ♪ ♪ If you don’t believe
I’ve been redeemed ♪ ♪ God’s gonna trouble
the water ♪

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