MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Descendants of the last African people abducted into slavery and brought to America’s shores gathered over the weekend on the banks of an Alabama river to pay tribute to their ancestors.
The descendants of the 110 people aboard the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to bring enslaved African people to the United States, held a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the vessel’s arrival.
Dressed in white and walking slowly to the beat of an African drum, the descendants made their way to the banks of the Mobile River near Alabama’s coast. A wreath of white, yellow and red flowers was carried into 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 voyage happened decades after the law banning the importation of slaves had taken effect when a wealthy plantation owner made a bet he he could smuggle a shipload of enslaved people across the ocean.
“Today is the day that, 162 years ago, 110 enslaved Africans were brought to this country against their will for the purpose of satisfying a bet,” said Darron Patterson, president of the Clotilda Descendants Association, told al.com.
The discovery of the remnants of the Clotilda sparked renewed interest in its saga. But Patterson said the focus should be on the people it carried.
“The ship was pure evil. It was a vessel of evil. The real story was the people inside that cargo hold. Very soon, we’re going to stop talking about the ship as much as we talk about the people. Because the stories of the people are what matter,” he told al.com.
The “landing” ceremony was held near the bridge to the Africatown community founded by Clotilda survivors after the Civil War.
“Proud of my heritage. I’d like to say even more so proud of the resilience and the legacy that they left behind,” descendant Ronald Ellis Jr told FOX10.