Dreams of Africa in Alabama; The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America
Sylviane A. Diouf
Feb 2007, Hardback
Jan 2009,Paperback, 352 pages
Winner of the Wesley-Logan Prize of the American Historical Association (2007)
In the summer of 1860, more than fifty years after the United States legally abolished the international slave trade, 110 men, women, and children from Benin and Nigeria were brought ashore in Alabama under cover of night. They were the last recorded group of Africans deported to the United States as slaves. Timothy Meaher, an established Mobile businessman, sent the slave ship, the Clotilda , to Africa, on a bet that he could “bring a shipful of [negroes] right into Mobile Bay under the officers’ noses.” He won the bet.
This book reconstructs the lives of the people in West Africa, recounts their capture and passage in the slave pen in Ouidah, and describes their experience of slavery alongside American-born enslaved men and women. After emancipation, the group reunited from various plantations, bought land, and founded their own settlement, known as African Town. They ruled it according to customary African laws, spoke their own regional language and, when giving interviews, insisted that writers use their African names so that their families would know that they were still alive.
The last survivor of the Clotilda died in 1935, but African Town is still home to a community of Clotilda descendants. The publication of Dreams of Africa in Alabama marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
“This important contribution provides readers with the opportunity to consider African culture, its survival even under slavery, its sense of community with roots in West Africa, and the difficulties of maintaining community in a segregated and increasingly Jim Crow South in the late 19th century. Highly recommended.”–T.F. Armstrong, CHOICE
“A compelling and often tragic narrative of survival and adaptation. It makes it clear that the Atlantic slave trade was not only a part of a ‘distant’ history of the United States, but that it also continued to shape our country long after it was officially abolished two centuries ago.”–Lisa A. Lindsay, African Studies Review
“Extremely well-documented work that breathes life into the African Diaspora.”–Debra Newman Ham, The Journal of African American History
“This remarkable story of how a group of captured Africans were torn from their native land in the kingdom of Dahomey, transported across the Atlantic Ocean to Mobile, Alabama shortly before the Civil War, and struggled to recapture their former lives by creating an African town during the postwar era, offers a unique perspective on American history. The narrative is at once tragic, uplifting, and engrossing.” –Loren Schweninger, co-author of In Search of the Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South
“In a tale worthy of a novelist, Sylviane Diouf provides a well-researched, nicely written, and moving account of the last slave ship to America, whose 110 captives arrived in Mobile in 1860 and, after the war, created their dream of Africa in Alabama and called it Africa Town.” –Howard Jones, author of Mutiny on the Amistad
“Dreams of Africa in Alabama is an excellent example of the new scholarship on the African diaspora that reconstructs the individual life stories of enslaved Africans–in this case the people brought from West Africa to Alabama in 1860 on the Clotilda. Diouf has sensitively revealed how these people built on their shared misfortune in being enslaved to form the vibrant community of African Town in the midst of an increasingly racist society, a testimony to unshakeable memories of their African homelands.” –Paul E. Lovejoy, Harriet Tubman Research Institute, York University
About the Author
Sylviane A. Diouf is an award-winning author of books on African and African diaspora history and culture. She has taught at Libreville University and New York University and is currently a curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.
Source: www. oup.com