Finding Redoshi
April 8, 2019 5:05 PM   Subscribe

"A researcher has discovered the identity of the last-known survivor of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the United States. Redoshi, later given the slave name Sally Smith, was kidnapped at the age of 12 from Benin in West Africa, in 1860. She was sold into slavery, making the journey to Alabama on the Clotilde, the last-known slave ship to arrive in the U.S." WBUR's Here and Now talks with Newcastle University researcher Hannah Durkin about "Sally Smith," the slave ship Clotilde, and Alabama's Africatown.

(Audio link at top of page; highlights of interview follow.)

From the Encyclopedia of Alabama: Africatown
After emancipation following the end of the Civil War in 1865, those formerly enslaved on Burns Meaher's plantation joined the others in the area north of Mobile known as Plateau. They hoped to return to Africa and their families but were unable to do so for lack of money and thus decided to remain where they were, albeit on their own terms. In 1866, they established the settlement of African Town as the first town founded and continuously occupied and controlled by blacks in the United States. The men, who were employed in shipyards and mills, and the women, who sold vegetables in Mobile, worked hard, saved their money, and were able to buy land from their former owners and others. African Town consisted of two sections: a large one of about 50 acres and a smaller one of seven acres located two miles west of the other. The smaller section, was called Lewis Quarters after Charlie Lewis (Oluale was his Yoruba name), one of the founders of the compound. In the 1890s, African Town consisted of about 30 houses set in a clearing in a pine forest.
From Africatown project locates graves of ex-slaves who survived 1859 shipwreck
The visible graves vary in age and condition. Many have concrete vaults protruding above ground, and most of these have headstone markers. Some are engraved in traditional manner, while others appear to have been written on by hand when the concrete was still wet. Other vaults lack names altogether.

More on the archaeological project

The Root: Erased From History: Meet Redoshi, the Last Survivor of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Previously: "Yeah, I Know Kossula"
posted by MonkeyToes (6 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
There's also a good article [previously] from early last year when it was thought that the wreck of the Clotilde may have been found. Although the wreck turned out to have been a different ship, the linked article provides more details about the Clotilde's last voyage.
posted by theory at 5:45 PM on April 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Meaher family still owns a lot of the land around Africatown, land which has been industrialized.

It's also the only real wild water access in mobile county.

Africatown residents are struggling to clean the water and have history tours and ecotourism development.

The army corps secretly permitted a tar sands pipeline through Africatown's community farm, and across the drinking water intake for all of Mobile.

People are still struggling, please support people s right to their own destiny.
posted by eustatic at 6:23 PM on April 8, 2019 [13 favorites]

Redoshi, also known as Sally Smith, lived until 1937, making her the last known survivor of the Transatlantic holocaust.

Amelia Boynton, who interviewed Redoshi, lived until 2015. She held Barack Obama’s hand while they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
posted by sallybrown at 6:53 PM on April 8, 2019 [19 favorites]

I still run across people who rationalize slavery, to this day. There are millions of slaves to this day, as slavery is legal in certain areas, and some from that culture try to import household slaves into the US while they stay here, or emigrate here. Then the enslavement of sex trade workers is, as we all know, ongoing and supported by a culture that "utilizes" the services of these slaves. I remember the old south, and my grandparent's gardens in northwestern Alabama. I had a fifth grade teacher in Blytheville, Arkansas who was a big fan of Franklin Roosevelt and of the work programs in the Great Depression. She hosted the writer, Lois Lenski, and raised awareness about the struggles of sharecroppers in the county where she lived.

I once went to Sipsey Bottoms in Blytheville, and saw the town African Americans were allowed to live in at the time. This was in 1959. I was only 9, but even then I could see the huge inequality of the situation. I went camping this weekend, it was physically exhausting to ward off cold and make life from scratch for 36 hours. These people were living a lifetime of camping in that area, that also included growing their own food, receiving no medical attention, and receiving heaps of abuse of all kinds. It was still fully segregated, drinking fountains and all, I doubt there was even piped water there. The film brought all of that back to me, because those houses were still in use and standing when I was a girl to see them.

I was extremely lucky to have an activist fifth grade teacher, they closed the school where she had been the principal, and she moved over to be a fifth grade teacher. Later in her life she was revered in Blytheville. There are no images of the old town for the others.
posted by Oyéah at 8:58 AM on April 9, 2019 [8 favorites]

Amelia Boynton, who interviewed Redoshi, lived until 2015. She held Barack Obama’s hand […]

That's amazing. Literally one degree of separation between an African captured into legalised slavery and the US' first Black president.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:45 PM on April 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

It is little short of amazing in the very saddest way.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:09 AM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

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