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Clotilda : the history and archaeology of the last slave ship  Cover Image Book Book

Clotilda : the history and archaeology of the last slave ship

Delgado, James P., (author.). Marx, Deborah, (author.). Lent, Kyle, (author.). Grinnan, Joseph, (author.). DeCaro, Alexander, (author.).


"The book documents the maritime history and the 2018/2019 archaeological fieldwork and laboratory and historical research to identify the wreck of notorious schooner Clotilda in Mobile Bay. Clotilda was owned by Alabama businessman Thomas Meaher, who, on a dare, equipped it to carry captured Africans from what is now Benin and bring them to Alabama in 1860, some fifty years after the import of the enslaved was banned. The boat carried perhaps 110 Africans, and, on approaching Mobile Bay, the captives were unloaded and dispersed by river steamer/s to plantations upriver. To hide the evidence, Clotilda was set afire and sunk. Apparently, the site of the wreck was an open secret but lost from memory for a time. Various surveys through the years failed to locate the ship. In 2018, reporter Ben Raines identified a shipwreck near Twelvemile Island, and the story attracted international attention. Researcher partners, including Delgado and coauthors in the crew, determined that this was not the Clotilda. In 2019, on another investigative mission to locate the Clotilda, Delgado and crew compared the remains of a schooner and determined that it was the Clotilda. The Alabama Historical Commission and the descendent community of Africatown, where survivors of the Clotilda made their lives post-Emancipation, are making plans for commemoration of the site and the remains of the ship, if it is possible to salvage and preserve out of water. The book takes two tacks. First it serves as a nautical biography of Clotilda. After reviewing the maritime trade in and out of Mobile Bay, it places the Clotilda within the larger landscape of American and Gulf of Mexico schooners and covers its career before being used as a slave ship. Delgado et al. reconstruct Clotilda's likely appearance and characteristics. The second tack is the archaeological assessment of the wreck. The book also places the wreck within the context of a ship's graveyard in a "back water" of the Mobile River. Delgado et al. discuss the various searches for Clotilda. Detailing of the forensic and other analyses shows how those involved concluded that this wreck was indeed the Clotilda"-- Provided by publisher.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780817321512 (hardcover)
  • ISBN: 0817321519 (hardcover)
  • Physical Description: xvi, 232 pages : illustrations (black and white, and colour), maps ; 23 cm.
  • Publisher: Tuscaloosa : The University of Alabama Press, [2023]

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Subject: Clotilda (Ship)
Slave ships > Alabama.
Shipwrecks > Alabama > Mobile River.
Underwater archaeology > Alabama > Mobile River.
Slave trade > Alabama > Mobile > History > 19th century.
Schooners > Alabama > Mobile > History.
Excavations (Archaeology) > Alabama.
Alabama > Antiquities.
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology.
HISTORY / African American & Black.
Clotilda (Ship)
Excavations (Archaeology)
Slave ships.
Slave trade.
Underwater archaeology.
Alabama > Mobile.
Alabama > Mobile River.
Genre: History.

Available copies

  • 2 of 2 copies available at State Library of Alabama.


  • 0 current holds with 2 total copies.
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