The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 stated that no new slaves were to be imported into the United States. Yet in 1860, a wooden ship called the Clotilda illegally transported 110 people from what is now the West African nation of Benin to Mobile, Alabama. Fearful of being caught for the illegal act, Clotilda’s slaveholders abandoned the ship.
Now researchers have located the wreck of the Clotilda, which is the last ship known to bring enslaved people from Africa to the U.S.
“The captives were later freed and settled a community that’s still called Africatown USA, but no one knew the location of the Clotilda,” U.S. News & World Report reported.
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Remains of the Gulf schooner Clotilda were identified and verified near Mobile after months of assessment, according to a statement by the Alabama Historical Commission, NBC News reported.
“The discovery of the Clotilda is an extraordinary archaeological find,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the commission. She said the ship’s journey “represented one of the darkest eras of modern history,” and the wreck provides “tangible evidence of slavery.”
“We are cautious about placing names on shipwrecks that no longer bear a name or something like a bell with the ship’s name on it,” maritime archaeologist James Delgado said in a statement. “But the physical and forensic evidence powerfully suggests that this is Clotilda.”
Officials are looking into ways to preserve the site where the ship was located.