The Last Slave Ship Clotilda and its Future, Re-Location to a National Museum in Africatown
WHEREAS, The Clotilda schooner was chartered by plantation owner and notorious slaver Timothy Meaher, sailing in 1860 from present-day Mobile County, Alabama, to the Kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day country of Benin to purchase and return with a shipment of enslaved Africans to make what became the last documented voyage in more than four centuries of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to North America from the African continent; and
WHEREAS, The Clotilda slave ship was burned and sunk in the Mobile River Delta near Twelve Mile Island immediately upon its return to conceal evidence of the enslavers' crimes against the federal ban on importing people from Africa into the United States to be enslaved; and
WHEREAS, a group of Africans who survived Clotilda's sinister act of piracy and five and one-half years of slavery at various plantations came together after the U.S. Civil War, settling three miles north of Mobile; and,
WHEREAS, when they could not work hard enough to raise money and return to their homelands, they became the first Africans in 19th century U.S.A. to establish and manage their own self-governing community in 1870 to maintain and transmit their African indigenous folkways, traditions, language, and culture to their descendants; and
WHEREAS, the many descendants of the founders of Africatown who are still residents in the community situated in Mobile County maintained their ancestors' story of Clotilda's tragic voyage that brought them to these shores; and
WHEREAS, the wreckage of the Clotilda slave ship was identified in 2018 along an uncharted stretch of the Mobile River near Twelve Mile Island in Mobile, Alabama, and later confirmed by marine archaeologists and researchers with the Alabama Historical Commission that officially announced the Clotilda discovery in May 2019; and
WHEREAS, the Clotilda slave ship, despite being submerged for more than 160 years and dynamited at some point in the more recent past, is the most intact Transatlantic Slave Trade ship wreckage ever found anywhere in the world that can provide crucial historic and archaeological knowledge about this global human holocaust; and
WHEREAS, extensive interviews and community engagement meetings have provided critical insight into the descendant community's thoughts and feelings about what should happen with the Clotilda wreckage; and
WHEREAS, Clotilda Descendants and Africatown leaders, with many local political representatives, have expressed resolve to raise, locate and preserve the Clotilda wreckage in the Africatown community for the cultural, historical, social, and economic benefit of its residents; and
WHEREAS, planning and organizing of the Africatown International Design Idea Competition began in August 2018, officially launching on Juneteenth (June 19) 2020 to solicit innovative architectural concepts from designers worldwide for a museum complex that could potentially house the Clotilda wreckage, among other monuments and amenities worthy of Africatown's legacy; and
WHEREAS, the Africatown community was recently listed on the 2022 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) as one of 25 globally significant sites in need of immediate preservation, with WMF committing to bring much-needed technical assistance to grass-roots community stakeholders, particularly in issues related to under-represented tourism; and
WHEREAS, the Alabama Historical Commission has claimed legal authority over the Clotilda wreckage and can raise the sunken slave ship from its watery grave to be properly preserved and displayed in an appropriate, world-class, national museum situated in the Africatown community; and
WHEREAS, such a museum should be authorized by the United States Congress, supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Park Service, with the full oversight and management of Africatown's Clotilda Descendants as a major world heritage destination in the Mobile area and the entire State of Alabama, attracting millions of cultural tourists to view the Clotilda wreckage and learn about the resilience of the millions of people who survived the Transatlantic Slave Trade and their descendants across the Diaspora, all through the singularly powerful lens of the Clotilda Descendants and their Africatown history; and
WHEREAS, the wreckage is now mostly located on the private property of the Mobile mayor and the governor of the State of Alabama has awarded one million dollars to research how or if the Clotilda wreckage can be safely raised and restored; however, given the historical nature, this research, raising, restoration, and preservation should involve any and all United States government research and historical oversight agencies.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP affirms its support for the raising and preservation of the Clotilda wreckage in the Africatown community.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP calls upon the Alabama Historical Commission, the United States Congress, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Park Service, and all pertinent federal agencies to support and engage in the efforts to research, raise, re-locate, and restore the Clotilda, and establish an incredibly rare and era-defining, world heritage Clotilda Museum on behalf of and to benefit Clotilda's Africatown descendants.