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Alabama Historical Commission Says Shipwreck Off The Coast Isn't The Clotilda

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In January, we reported that an Alabama man believed he'd made a very big discovery - the wreck of the last American slave ship.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BEN RAINES: I saw this big sort of dinosaur backbone almost arcing up out of the mud along the shoreline.

KELLY: Ben Raines was excited that he'd recovered a piece of African-American history. Then this week, the Alabama Historical Commission issued its conclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Now, after a more thorough examination, of course we've learned that it is not it.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Raines did find an old vessel, but this one is not old enough, and it's way too big to be the right one. The lost slave ship is named the Clotilda, and it is somewhere in the delta of the rivers that empty into Mobile Bay. The Historical Commission examined Raines' discovery and said that even though it is a case of mistaken identity, it will inspire a renewed effort to find the Clotilda. There's strong interest in this search in Mobile's historic Africatown. Robert Battles is the former director.

ROBERT BATTLES: What it would mean to the community is a renewed interest in the African-American culture.

KELLY: Africatown was formed by a group of 32 West Africans taken to Alabama aboard the Clotilda in 1860. By then, it was illegal to bring slaves into the United States. They were among the last enslaved Africans brought to the United States from the Kingdom of Dahomey. Battles hopes the real Clotilda will one day be pulled from the waters and that it will end up at Africatown, an essential link in the story of African-American history. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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