Recovering the Clotilda

Investigating the Last Known Slave Ship
The ship illegally transported 110 people from Benin, Africa to Mobile, Alabama in 1860, more than 50 years after the US banned the importation of enslaved people.
Clotilda is the most intact slave ship known to exist in the archeological record.
Maritime archaeologists and conservators have recovered portions of the vessel, uncovered the forensic evidence of its partial destruction by fire as well as evidence of how the captives were confined and transported against their will.
Clotilda has been named to the National Register of Historic Places at a “National” level of significance.

SEARCH led the archaeological survey that identified the wreck of Clotilda—the last ship known to have brought captive Africans to the US.

Discovered partially submerged along the bank of the Mobile River in Alabama, Clotilda’s remains are the best-preserved archaeological site connected with the transatlantic slave trade. Working for the Alabama Historical Commission in consultation with the descendant community of Africatown, SEARCH has conducted three field seasons of excavation, documentation, analysis, and detailed historical study, which led to a successful nomination of Clotilda to the National Register of Historic Places.

The latest phase of work seeks to answer questions about the best plan of action for preserving the wreck and learning more from its remains.

We are humbled by the story and significance of this archaeological site. As archaeologists, we are often asked why the work we do matters. The story of Clotilda is a testament to how cultural heritage can impact a community, especially one as powerfully connected to this story as Africatown.

Dr. Anne V. Stokes, CEO of SEARCH, Inc.

Selected media Coverage

Cover story in National Geographic (February 2020)

Featured on 60 Minutes and PBS NewsHour

Subject of Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship, a National Geographic documentary

Subject of an episode of National Geographic’s international TV series Drain the Oceans

Subject of Descendent, a Netflix documentary and winner of the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision at Sundance

News of Clotilda’s discovery has now reached more than 2B people worldwide.

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