The last slave ship The true story of how Clotilda was found, her descendants, and an extraordinary reckoning

Ben Raines

Book - 2022

"The incredible true story of the last ship to carry enslaved people to America, the remarkable town its survivors founded after emancipation, and the complicated legacy their descendants carry with them to this day-by the journalist who discovered the ship's remains"--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 973.00496/Raines (NEW SHELF) Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster 2022.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xvii, 283 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781982136048
1982136049
Main Author
Ben Raines (author)
  • The bet
  • The voyage of the Clotilda
  • The King of the Amazons
  • Captured
  • Barracoon
  • Into the canebreak
  • Five years a slave
  • An African town
  • Africatown
  • the fall
  • Finding Clotilda
  • Finding a future in the past
  • Reconciliation
  • Coda.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 2019, journalist Raines made international headlines when he discovered the remains of the Clotilda (the last known ship to carry enslaved people to the United States), ending a decades-long search for the vessel. Here, Raines weaves together the many complex strands of the Clotilda's history to compelling effect, including the ways in which its discovery has impacted the descendants of the ship's survivors. Timothy Meaher, raised in Maine but who made his fortune as a steamboat captain and slave trader in Alabama, launched the Clotilda in 1859 as a bet that he could elude the federal ban on the importation of enslaved people. Alongside this book's account of Meaher's life, Raines also dives deep into the Clotilda's story on the other side of the Atlantic by examining the role played by the Dahomey kingdom (present-day Benin) in violently capturing and selling members of neighboring tribal nations, including those who were enslaved on the Clotilda. The most powerful parts of the book explore the ship's legacy in Africatown, a settlement near Mobile, AL, founded by emancipated survivors of the Clotilda after the Civil War. VERDICT Raines effectively blends historical research and journalism into a gripping transatlantic tale of trauma, hope, and reconciliation. An absolutely essential book.—Colin Chappell, Anne Arundel Cty. P.L., MD Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Raines (Saving America's Amazon) unearths in this riveting chronicle the story of the last slave ship to arrive in the U.S. In 1860, more than 50 years after the Atlantic slave trade was banned, the Clotilda sailed to Mobile, Ala., with 110 people illegally taken from the Kingdom of Dahomey in present-day Benin. In Alabama, the captives were divided among Timothy Meaher, a steamboat captain and plantation owner who had arranged the ship's voyage on a bet, and his brothers. Afterwards, Meaher burned and scuttled the ship to escape prosecution. Freed at the end of the Civil War, the Clotilda's survivors set up an autonomous community called Africatown near Mobile that flourished until the 1970s. Raines profiles the founders of Africatown and their descendants, vividly describes the captives' tempestuous voyage on the Clotilda and their struggle to assimilate to American society, and explains how his knowledge of the Mobile-Tensaw delta helped him locate the wreck in 2018. He also documents how the discovery has helped to foster a movement for reconciliation between the descendants of the enslaved and their captors in Africa and the U.S. The result is an evocative and informative tale of exploitation, deceit, and resilience. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Jan.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"The incredible true story of the last ship to carry enslaved people to America, the remarkable town its survivors founded after emancipation, and the complicated legacy their descendants carry with them to this day-by the journalist who discovered the ship's remains"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

This extraordinary true story of the last ship to carry enslaved people to America recounts its perilous journey, its rediscovery and its complex legacy—and how America continues to struggle with the traumatic past of slavery and the ways in which racial oppression continue to this day. 50,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The incredible true story of the last ship to carry enslaved people to America, the remarkable town its survivors founded after emancipation, and the complicated legacy their descendants carry with them to this day—by the journalist who discovered the ship’s remains.Fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed, the Clotilda became the last ship in history to bring enslaved Africans to the United States. The ship was scuttled and burned on arrival to hide evidence of the crime, allowing the wealthy perpetrators to escape prosecution. Despite numerous efforts to find the sunken wreck, Clotilda remained hidden for the next 160 years. But in 2019, journalist Ben Raines made international news when he successfully concluded his obsessive quest through the swamps of Alabama to uncover one of our nation’s most important historical artifacts.Traveling from Alabama to the ancient African kingdom of Dahomey in modern-day Benin, Raines recounts the ship’s perilous journey, the story of its rediscovery, and its complex legacy. Against all odds, Africatown, the Alabama community founded by the captives of the Clotilda, prospered in the Jim Crow South. Zora Neale Hurston visited in 1927 to interview Cudjo Lewis, telling the story of his enslavement in the New York Times bestseller Barracoon. And yet the haunting memory of bondage has been passed on through generations. Clotilda is a ghost haunting three communities—the descendants of those transported into slavery, the descendants of their fellow Africans who sold them, and the descendants of their American enslavers. This connection binds these groups together to this day. At the turn of the century, descendants of the captain who financed the Clotilda’s journey lived nearby—where, as significant players in the local real estate market, they disenfranchised and impoverished residents of Africatown.From these parallel stories emerges a profound depiction of America as it struggles to grapple with the traumatic past of slavery and the ways in which racial oppression continue to this day. And yet, at its heart, The Last Slave Ship remains optimistic—an epic tale of one community’s triumphs over great adversity and a celebration of the power of human curiosity to uncover the truth about our past and heal its wounds.