State to give $1 million to help preserve Clotilda

Clotilda was the last U.S. slave ship

State to give $1 million to help preserve Clotilda
Alabama gives $1 million toward Clotilda preservation (Source: Alabama Historical Commission)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) - Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature have pledged $1 million dollars toward the preservation of the last U.S. slave ship the Clotilda.

The Alabama Historical Commission owns the Clotilda shipwreck.

The remains of the ship were found on a muddy river bottom north of Mobile and identified last year.

For more than twenty years, the Alabama Historical Commission – the State Historic Preservation Office – has been supporting the effort to find the Clotilda, issuing permits and grant funding to archaeologists and firms since 1997.

With the new funding the next stage of preservation, Phase 3, will begin in October 2020.

According to the Alabama Historical Commission the multifaceted phase includes targeted artifact excavation with industrial dive efforts supporting environmental and structural assessment of the site and an engineering study of the riverbed to inform stability.

Scientists will study the sediment around the wreck and the species living around the wreck area. They will also look at the deterioration and condition of the wood.

Finally, the engineering study will evaluate what is needed for site protection as well as the integrity of the riverbed for consideration of erecting a memorial on site.

“The Clotilda is a priceless and significant artifact very much deserving of our respect and remembrance. Protecting this resource is imperative,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. “The Alabama Historical Commission has been devoted to carrying out their mandate of guardianship, acting with the ship’s best interests,” said Ivey. “By preserving the Clotilda, Alabama has the opportunity to protect a piece of history, and I look forward to Alabama carrying out that responsibility.”

“Africatown exists because of the Clotilda,” said Alabama State Senator Vivian Davis Figures. “It is paramount that the story of the men, women and children who were brought here from Africa for the purpose of slavery, be told and passed on by their descendants. With the confirmation of the vessel, there is no denying the brutality they suffered, and the reality of how they survived and built a community in Alabama in spite of all the things they endured.”

“I appreciate the Alabama Historical Commission for all its efforts to preserve this vessel and the General Fund Chairmen of our legislature for their leadership in making this significant investment saving the Clotilda,” said Alabama State Senator Arthur Orr. “The Clotilda admittedly represents a tragic and painful part of our state’s history but one that nonetheless must be told to succeeding generations of Alabamians all in answer to the familiar question of ‘how did our state and its citizens come to be where they are today’.”

“I am honored to work with the Historical Commission as the House General Fund Chairman as they strive to protect and preserve the Clotilda,” said Alabama Representative Steve Clouse. “It is important this piece of Alabama history be around for generations to come.”

In the archaeological report released May 2019, the wreckage of the Clotilda is described as being in a fragile state; the vessel was scuttled and burned in July 1860 in an effort to conceal and terminate evidence of the premeditated crime of human trafficking by co-conspirators Captain William Foster and Timothy Meaher. According to oral histories by locals in Mobile, Clotilda’s remains were dynamited in the 1940s or 1950s, possibly to salvage materials from the ship, or as an attempt to further destroy the wreckage.

“The Alabama Historical Commission has a vital role as the legal guardian of the Clotilda,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, Executive Director of the Alabama Historical Commission. “It is our tremendous duty to ensure that this historic artifact survives so that the world never forgets what transpired during the Transatlantic slave trade. We are deeply appreciative to Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature for supporting this effort and preserving this story for the world.”

“During this period of deep reflection on the shared history of all Alabamians, the Alabama Historical Commission is grateful for the opportunity to move forward with work to provide additional protection and preservation of the last-known slave ship Clotilda,” said Eddie Griffith, Alabama Historical Commission Chairman. “Through this effort, we will investigate an appropriate way to memorialize the shipwreck and the people brought to our state against their will and enslaved, but who nevertheless built a lasting community where proud descendants still live today. Alabamians have overwhelmingly supported the protection and interpretation of this discovery and we appreciate the generous funding provided through Governor Ivey and the Alabama legislature.”

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