2009 James F. Sulzby Award of the Alabama Historical Association
2008 Finalist Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
2007 Wesley-Logan Prize of the American Historical Association
In the summer of 1860 more than fifty years after the United States legally abolished the international slave trade, 110 children, teenagers, and young adults from Benin and Nigeria were brought ashore in Alabama under cover of night. They were the last recorded group of Africans deported to the United States. Timothy Meaher, an established Mobile businessman, sent William Foster's ship, the Clotilda to Ouidah in the Bight of Benin, on a bet that he could "bring a shipful of niggers right into Mobile Bay under the officers' noses." He won the bet.
This book reconstructs -with never published photographs and documents- the lives of the young people in West Africa (Benin and Nigeria,) recounts their capture and passage in the slave pen in Ouidah and their dreadful voyage, and describes their experience of slavery and freedom alongside American-born men and women.
For the first time, the personal and detailed testimonies of the slavers, and those of the deported Africans are gathered together to tell the best-documented, but also the most forgotten, story of the slave trade to the Western Hemisphere.
After emancipation, the group, under the leadership of Gumpa -a nobleman from Dahomey- reunited from various plantations, bought land, and founded their own settlement, known as African Town. They ruled it according to their customary laws, continued to speak their own languages-which they taught their children- and insisted that writers use their African names so that their families would know that they were still alive.
Cudjo Lewis, the last survivor of the Clotilda died in 1935, but African Town (now called Africatown) is still home to the descendants of the men and women who dreamed of Africa in Alabama.
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