Slave Ship Clotilda and search for Clotilda
(Mobile, AL, May 24, 2019) — On May 24, 1860, the slave ship Clotilda left the African city of Quidah (in present-day Benin) — packed with 110 men, women and children whom the King of Dahomey violently kidnapped and sold — headed for Mobile, Alabama.
On the 159th anniversary of that trade, BUDAL-GIE, a Benin delegation sanctioned by a new King of Dahomey, is reviving a long-standing vow to repair past wrongs with plans to revive Africatown, which was founded by a core group from those 110 Africans. This plan and others underway in Mobile are part of a new initiative to leverage the just-announced finding of the Clotilda as first steps toward comprehensive community redevelopment through cultural heritage tourism.
On Wednesday, May 22, the Alabama Historical Commission — with support from the National Geographic Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Slave Wreck Project and international search teams — announced that it had found the Clotilda slave ship in the Mobile River Delta near Twelve Mile Island. The Clotilda captain and the Mobile plantation owners who financed his voyage to Dahomey sunk the ship there to hide proof of their human cargo because importing Africans for slavery into the U.S. was illegal at the time.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, May 30, the Alabama Historical Commission is hosting a press conference about the Clotilda discovery. The Africatown residents and regional advocates are organizing a commemorative celebration of the discovery because of what it means to the African ancestors, the Clotilda descendants and the community at large.
Finding the Clotilda represents a crucial turning point in Africatown’s ongoing revitalization efforts. Community organizers and their supporters seek political, financial and professional assistance in moving forward with plans to create an international cultural destination ecosystem worthy of Africatown’s unique history.
The search for, and now the finding of, the Clotilda has added even more energy to planning efforts already underway in Historic Africatown and surrounding areas, including: the Africatown CDC’s Welcome Center that is funded by monies from the BP Oil Spill disaster; the proposed new Africatown Connections Blueway project coordinated through the National Park Service; environmental projects by C.H.E.S.S. and the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition; projects of the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association and the Alliance Institute; the Africatown Clotilda Descendants’ initiative; the Dora Franklin Finley African American Heritage Trail of Mobile; and the Benin House Project hosted by BUDAL-GIE at Africatown USA State Park that is located in the City of Prichard, a predominantly black suburb of Mobile.
Another effort is the Africatown International Design Idea Competition, sponsored by M.O.V.E. (Making Opportunities Viable to Everyone) Gulf Coast CDC. It has hired studio|rotan as the professional competition advisor that will program the multi-site design challenge.
The Africatown International Design Idea Competition (AIDIC) acts as a tool that pulls together all of the community initiatives into a single cultural master plan movement. Many past studies and other recent plans for Africatown will be incorporated into an overall architectural design vision with help from a community-based advisory consortium open to all.
One of the competition’s design challenges is to imagine a boathouse for a full-sized replica of the Clotilda, among design ideas for 16 venues at 4 sites. Ultimately, the ideas generated through AIDIC will constitute the Africatown Cultural Mile, a cultural destination system stretching 8 miles from Downtown Mobile, to Historic Africatown, and to the cities of Chickasaw and Prichard. Africatown’s unique history serves as the focal point that connects them all to each other and to the African Diaspora worldwide.
Teams of architects and urban planners across the globe, especially Africa, will be invited to submit their best design solutions for the 16 venues.–
For more information, contact Vickii Howell, President/CEO of M.O.V.E. Gulf Coast CDC, at (205) 5663131 or email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org