MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama on Friday filed a claim in federal court to preserve the wreckage of the last ship known to bring enslaved people from Africa to the United States.
The Alabama Historical Commission filed the claim in federal court in Mobile for the Clotilda, which was discovered earlier this year . The commission said in a statement that the action is an attempt to prevent salvagers from disturbing the ship or taking artifacts from it.
“By preserving the Clotilda, Alabama has the opportunity to preserve a piece of history. It is a prime example of an artifact that deserves our respect and remembrance,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.
In 1860, the wooden ship illegally transported 110 people from what is now the west African nation of Benin to Mobile, Alabama. The Clotilda was then taken into delta waters north of the port and burned to avoid detection of the illegal trip.
The captives were later freed after the Civil War and settled a community that’s still called Africatown .
Researchers this year announced this year they have discovered the wreckage of the Clotilda.
“We are charged with ensuring this tremendously important archaeological find is preserved and protected for Africatown and our nation,” said Lisa D. Jones, Executive Director of the Alabama Historical Commission.
The U.S. banned the importation of slaves in 1808, but the ship brought the enslaved people to the U.S. after the wager of a plantation owner.
Alabama plantation owner Timothy Meaher made a bet that he could bring a shipload of Africans across the ocean, historian Natalie S. Robertson has said. The schooner Clotilda sailed from Mobile to western Africa, where it picked up captives and returned them to Alabama, evading authorities during a tortuous voyage.