An Alabama state commission filed a claim on Friday to protect what’s thought to be the last ship to carry slaves from Africa to the U.S.
The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) and the State Historic Preservation Office filed an admiralty claim — part of maritime law — in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama that looks to ensure the “protection and the preservation” of the Clotilda, the commission announced.
"It carries a story and an obligation to meet every opportunity to plan for its safeguarding," the commission’s executive director, Lisa Jones, said in a statement. “AHC is laying the groundwork for ongoing efforts to not only ensure the Clotilda's immediate assessment, but to also establish pathways for its longevity."
By pursuing an admiralty claim, the commission said, the ship will be a publicly owned resource, artifacts taken from the ship can be retrieved and future attempts to defame the ship or its artifacts can be prevented.
"By preserving the Clotilda, Alabama has the opportunity to preserve a piece of history," Alabama Gov. Kay IveyKay IveyDozens of Republican governors call for meeting with Biden on border surge President Biden's vaccination plan is constitutional — and necessary Teenage Alabama city councilman who voted against mask mandate tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R) said in the statement. "It is a prime example of an artifact that deserves our respect and remembrance."
The ship reportedly illegally transported 110 people from Africa to Mobile, Ala., in 1860, more than 50 years after the U.S. made it illegal to import slaves. A group of co-conspirators allegedly sunk, burned and abandoned the ship and divided the slaves among their captors, the statement said.
Some of the ships’s slave passengers reunited after the Civil War “with the hopes of returning to Africa,” the statement reads. But when they were unsuccessful, they established a community in Mobile, which is now known as Africatown, according to the commission.
In May, the state announced that a wreck found in the Mobile River had been identified as the Clotilda.