A group of experts have arrived in the Port City to investigate if the shipwreck documented by a local reporter is actually the remains of the last slave ship to unload human cargo in America.
Anderson Flen, president of the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association, announced Friday morning that a group of historic preservationists were in the historic Africatown community to confirm if AL.com’s Ben Raines helped find the location of the remnants of the Clotilda.
“We all hope that it is,” Flen told a group of community members, visitors and reporters at a press conference at the Robert Hope Community Center. “However, whatever the findings, we know it’s out there.”
Officials from the African American History Museum in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Slave Wreck Project, the National Park Service and the Alabama Historical Commission are all working on the project, Flen said.
“Today’s event came about very quickly because of the relationships formed by so many and because the Africatown story is such a remarkable story,” he said. “So many in the community of Africatown were a part of the conference call to help make this happen.”
Clara Nobles, assistant director for the Alabama Historical Commission, said the agency would help in the process.
“Our main goal is to identify the wreckage,” she told the group. “It may be the Clotilda and that would be great. It may not and that’s OK because that’ll mean it’s still out there.”
State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures said she believes the wreckage is that of the Clotilda and she would do what she could to help.
“This is a blessed day,” she said. “I’m very excited about this day. I’m excited to be a part of this.”
When asked what would happen to the wreckage if it were identified as the Clotilda, Figures said she would do everything in her power to allow it to stay in the state and the community.
“It will not leave Alabama,” she said. “I will do everything within my power to make that happen. It needs to be here.”
Liz Smith-Incer, of the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, told the group the agency is working to connect points in history through a roughly 10-mile blueway in Africatown, Prichard, Chickasaw and Mobile County.
The focus would be on the Clotilda and the National Parks Service’s Submerged Resources Center is helping with the investigation.