MOBILE, Ala. — Descendants of the last Africans abducted into slavery and brought to American shores gathered on the banks of an Alabama river this weekend to pay homage to their ancestors.
Descendants of the 110 people aboard the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to bring enslaved Africans to the United States, held a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the ship’s arrival.
Dressed in white and marching slowly to the beat of an African drum, the descendants made their way to the banks of the Mobile River near the Alabama coast. A wreath of white, yellow and red flowers was carried down the river by a kayaker and released into the waters.
In 1860, the Clotilda illegally transported 110 people from what is now the West African nation of Benin to Mobile, Alabama. The trip took place decades after the law banning the importation of slaves came into effect when a wealthy plantation owner bet he could smuggle a shipment of slaves through the ‘ocean.
“Today is the day when, 162 years ago, 110 enslaved Africans were brought to this country against their will for the purpose of satisfying a wager,” said Darron Patterson, president of the Clotilda Descendants Association, at al.com.
The discovery of the remains of the Clotilde has sparked renewed interest in her saga. But Patterson said the focus should be on the people being transported.
“The ship was pure evil. It was a ship of evil. The real story was the people inside that cargo hold. Pretty soon we’re going to stop talking about the ship as much as we talk about the people. Because the people’s stories are what matters,” he told al.com.
The “landing” ceremony took place near the bridge to the community of Africatown founded by the survivors of Clotilda after the civil war.
“Proud of my heritage. I would like to say even more so proud of the resilience and the legacy they left behind,” descendant Ronald Ellis Jr told FOX10.