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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace

Africatown


As I was researching Alabama history in writing Wiregrass Chronicles – Long Rows to Hoe, I came across the fascinating story of the Clotilda (aka Clotilde), the last ship to transport slaves from Africa to America. This occurred in 1860, long after the slave trade had been abolished in 1808, and was organized and financed by an Alabama businessman, Timothy Meaher, who made a bet that he could circumvent the law without consequences. The Civil War was just beginning, and Meaher was forced to confront the fact that his venture was unsuccessful.


The Clotilda was deliberately sunk in Mobile Harbor, and its 110 captives were released into the steaming Alabama Delta. Miraculously, and through their courage, grit, and determination, these individuals not only survived but established Africatown in Mobile, a thriving community where their culture was preserved.


My reference to Africatown and its leader, Cudjo Lewis, appears in Chapter 9 of Wiregrass Chronicles -- Long Rows to Hoe, which I completed writing in 2017. Having a deep interest in Africatown, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the ship was discovered at the bottom of Mobile Bay in 2018. “Clotilda: The Exhibition,” opened at the Heritage House in Africatown on July 8, 2023, coinciding with the anniversary of the arrival 163 years ago. The 5,000-square-foot building houses artifacts from the ship, interpretative text panels, documents, and a memorial wall with names of the 110 survivors.


Read more about this intriguing slice of American history at: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/shipwreck-awash-black-history-takes-center-stage-alabama-rcna92919






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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace


Like all of America, Alabama has a rich native American history. Long before the first Europeans landed on our eastern shores, mound builders of the Woodland Period (500 BC-1100 AD) raised crops of corn, squash, and beans and hunted abundant game in the Wiregrass. Most of the land was unsettled, but native people traded along trails and rivers – the Conecuh, Pea, Choctawatchee, and Chattahoochee – that flowed through southeastern Alabama. After the arrival of the Europeans, the deerskin trade became a main source of sustenance for the Creeks in the late eighteenth century. But contact with white settlers did not bode well for the Creeks.


The 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson resulted in the Creek Nation losing control of the Wiregrass. However, the heavily wooded region remained wild and unsafe for white immigrants until the forced removal of the Creeks in 1836.


Although native Americans suffered the loss of their priceless lands and were threatened with the loss of their identity, through their steadfastness, courage, and devotion to their ancient ways, they were able to salvage and maintain much of their culture. For example, skilled basket weavers continue to produce these intricately woven pieces of art, much as their ancestors did thousands of years ago, much as their ancestors did thousands of years ago.


The devastating effect of white settlement is touched on in several chapters of Wiregrass Chronicles – Long Rows to Hoe, and Wiregrass Chronicles – Bluebirds, Sharpshooters and the Lure of Faraway Places.


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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace

Alabama’s native American history was recently highlighted with the news that new technology, hi-tech 30 photogrammetry, has enabled scientists to photograph and piece together ancient carvings known as mud glyphs on the ceiling of Cave #19 Unnamed Cave, so described to protect the site location.


This newly developed process has allowed largely obscured ceiling drawings to be rendered visible. Archeologist Jan Simek and photographers Stephen Alvarez and Alan Cressler spent arduous hours crawling through low-ceilinged areas of the cave and using special photographic equipment to capture 16,000 pictures that overlap to map the cave ceiling. Caves were considered sacred places, and the artwork is found in the deepest and darkest part of the cave. The images depict giant humanoid figures, as well as serpents, insects, birds, abstract shapes, and swirling lines. It is estimated that the drawings were created during the Midland Woodland Period (500 BC – 1100 AD).


You can view the story of how Cave 19 was explored and photographed by reading Alabama Cave Reveals Mysterious New Images Traced by Ancient Hands at www.al.com. While Cave 19 is located in northern Alabama, not in the Wiregrass, it is indicative of the centuries-long native American habitation of Alabama.


For enlightening and entertaining stories about Creek history in the Wiregrass, check out Wiregrass Chronicles – Long Rows to Hoe and Wiregrass Chronicles – Bluebirds, Sharpshooters, and the Lure of Faraway Places.



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