Photos by @elias.williams
| In 1860 enslaved Africans arrived in Mobile, Alabama, aboard Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States—the result of an illegal bet, made 52 years after the international slave trade was abolished. After arrival, the ship was burned and sunk in a remote area of the Mobile River. In 1865 slavery was abolished, and Clotilda survivors had no way to return to Africa. They would go on to purchase land and found a tight-knit, self-reliant community named Africatown, where many of their descendants live today. For more than a century, the remains of the Clotilda have been a mystery. Last May, a team of underwater archaeologists announced that the ship was discovered.
These are the descendants of Clotilda survivors Cudjo Lewis, Charlie Lewis, Pollee Allen, and Ossa Keeby, descendants who keep their heritage alive.
Cousins Attevese Lumbers-Rosario and Ralphema Lumbers are descendants of Cudjo Lewis, one of Africatown’s most notable founders. He lived until 1935, and was one of the longest lived survivors. Ralphema Lumbers wears a T-shirt with a photo of Lewis, taken about 1927.
Lorna Gail Woods is one of Africatown’s historians and the great-great-granddaughter of Charlie Lewis. The oldest of the Clotilda captives, he settled an area that became known as Lewis Quarters, where some of his 200-plus descendants still live.
Vernetta Henson is the great-great granddaughter of Pollee Allen, who worked as a lumber stacker and in his productive garden to provide for his 15 children.
Karliss Hinton is an Army veteran and descendant of Ossa Keeby. Keeby was likely a fisherman on the Kebbi River in northwestern Nigeria before he was captured. He and his wife, Annie, became successful farmers, raised nine children, and owned several plots of land.