Right in my hometown of Mobile, Alabama occurred one of America's best kept secrets. For almost a century and a half this long hidden event in the annals of American history has had little effect upon the consciousness of even Mobile's local African (Black) population.
Under Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution, the national government declared the importation of Africans for slave labor illegal in 1808. But this in no way outlawed the domestic slave trade whereby plantation owners and slave merchants could trade slaves for other slaves and goods within the continental United States borders. With the growth of staple crops in the 1840s and 50s the demand for slaves began to skyrocket. The demand itself was greater than the natural supply. So it would surmise that there would be a concerted effort among some in the slave owning community to secretly import Africans as slaves after 1808.
In the 19th century, Northeasterners were the major slave smugglers. In some cases, some Northeasterners relocated to the South to enjoy the benefits and wealth of the slave society of the South.
Such was the case of the Whitfield, Maine born Timothy Meaher who relocated to Mobile, Alabama in 1836 to become a successful ship builder. In Mobile, Meaher became an owner of several lumber mills, as well as cotton plantations. Of course, the two business ventures complimented one another. He produced lumber that would build his boats that would transport people to various places along the Alabama River. And he also used the ships he built to smuggle slaves who would toil on his cotton plantations.
In 1858, during a trip to Montgomery on his steamboat, Robert B. Taney, and Captain Timothy Meaher conceived of the voyage of the Clotilda. Captain Meaher bet some eastern gentlemen $100,000 that he could bring some Afrikans, or as he stated, some Niggers to Mobile without getting caught. He decided to get the slaves from the King of Dahomey because his kingdom was one of the chief slave trading states in Africa, and at the time, the trade was thriving in Dahomey where slaves were plentiful and cheap. There the captain secured 130 Afrikans that had been captured from various parts of West Afrika. The Mobile Press did not make things better when they posted in their papers that the “King of Dahomey” was selling his people and for how much! It seems as if this may have been a concerted effort between several parties.
Upon further research I have found that this “King of Dahomey” was the tenth of the twelve kings of Dahomey born as Badohou. He later took the throne name of Glele. Glele succeeded his father Ghezo not only physically but in all of his father’s political enterprises. Sadly, this including slave raiding and selling of Afrikan bodies to Europeans. He made concessions with the French who, though speaking against slavery abroad, turned a blind eye to it in Dahomey. Glele was succeeded by Kondo-Behanzin.
For a three month period or so the Afrikans of the Clotilda suffered some of the most horrendous conditions humans could ever endure from being force fed food not native to them, to whippings, to witnessing their kin die horrible deaths. But Captain Foster was determined to get the majority of these Afrikans to the Amerikkkan shores so that he could collect his part of the money that was bet on these Afrikans.
After having to evade to British Man of War ships looking for slave traders, the Clotilda finally reached the Mississippi sound where from hence Captain William Foster went into Mobile to collect money for him and his men. From there the ship was taken in charge by Captain Tim Meaher and run up Mobile Bay and river by night. The Afrikans were then hidden in the delta marshes of upper Baldwin County at the head of Mobile Bay, and the Clotilda was taken to Bayou Conner and burned to the hull edge. Talk of this event spread around town and eventually the authorities took proceedings against Captain Tim Meaher. It is interesting to note that the captain of the ship, William Foster, was sent away while Tim Meaher stood “trial”. The Captain of the Clotilda was kept out of the way and Meaher proved that he had been in and about Mobile all the time. The result was that he was acquitted. After everything had blown over the slaves were divided by Captain Meaher among different persons in interest. Many of the Afrikans were sent up the river to plantations, others were also employed in building redans and redoubts up the river, while 30 of them remained in the neighborhood of Mobile river above Mobile on Meaher's land and that part of the suburb of Plateau known as "Affrishy Town". This was later called Africatown; a name which it bears to this day.
Zora Neal Hurston interviewed with the last survivor of the Clotilda incident whose name at the time was Cudjoe Lewis. She found out that his birth name was Kudjo Kazoola (who later died in 1935)and that his was from the Tarkar tribe which was a subgroup of the Akan/Ashanti. Kudjo relayed to Hurston that his village had been raided by “some very large women” when he was just a little boy, and that was when he was taken. Western anthropology usually refers to these women as Amazons (a word taken from the fact that the Greek Amazon women had one breast). These were the Dahomeans Abosi warrior women. The connection between old Dahomey (now Benin) and Mobile was acknowledged in 1994 when a delegation of Beninoise officials came to Mobile and deemed Africatown a sister city to the whole of Benin.
In my hometown where this happened, you would think such an event being relatively fresh in the minds of the people, and with so many descendants alive that can trace their blood to Afrika through this ship, that Afrikan culture would be alive there but this is not the case. It is just more evidence of the mental destruction that the European has inundated our spirits with.