The last American slave ship was found off the coast of Alabama late last year, the Alabama Historical Commission announced Wednesday. According to AL.com, the Clotilda was found near Twelve-Mile Island in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and has been authenticated as the U.S.’ last slave transport vessel. The ship reportedly transported 110 people illegally from Benin in Africa to Mobile, Alabama, between February and July of 1860. Because transporting Africans into the U.S. was declared an “act of piracy punishable by death” in 1820, the ship arrived in secret. Some of the 110 people were sold to slave brokers, while Timothy Meaher—the expedition's funder—is said to have kept 32 enslaved and his brother James enslaved eight. The Africans spent the next five years as slaves until the south lost the American Civil War, and they were freed.
Thirty of those from the Clotilda purchased land from the Meaher family and built a community still known to this day as Africatown. “Residents of Africatown have carried the memory of their ancestors who were forcefully and violently migrated from Africa to the shores of Alabama,” the historical commission said. “Since then, the final chapter of the Clotilda story has been shrouded in mystery.” Upon finding the shipwreck last year, archaeologists were hesitant to definitively say it was the Clotilda, but Dr. James Delgado said the “physical and forensic evidence” strongly suggests that the ship was authentic.