A Survivor of the Last Slave Ship Lived Until 1940

A Survivor of the Last Slave Ship Lived Until 1940


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The last known survivor of the last U.S. slave ship died in 1940—75 years after the abolition of slavery. Her name was Matilda McCrear.

When she first arrived in Alabama in 1860, she was only two years old. By the time she died, Matilda had lived through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, World War I, the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

The facial scars on her left cheek—which are preserved in photographs—indicate she came from the Yoruba people of West Africa. Her given name was “Àbáké,” meaning “born to be loved by all.” She and her mother and sisters were captured from their home by the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey and taken to the slave port of Ouidah in present-day Benin. There, Captain William Foster and his crew illegally purchased her family and over 100 others to traffic into Alabama on the Clotilda, the last known U.S. slave ship (the importation of enslaved people had been illegal in the U.S. since 1807).

READ MORE: Descendants of Last Slave Ship Still Live in Alabama Community

Once in Alabama, a prominent slaveowner named Memorable Walker Creagh purchased Àbáké, her mother and her 10-year-old sister to work on his plantation. Her two oldest sisters went to another plantation, and she never saw them again. On Creagh’s plantation, “Àbáké” became “Matilda,” later known as “Tilly.” Her mother became “Gracie” and her sister became “Sallie.”

When the Civil War ended five years later, she and her remaining family members were free, but they had no way to return home.

The New ‘Last’ Clotilda Survivor

Sylviane A. Diouf, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and author of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America, doesn’t think it’s helpful to talk about people as being “the last” Clotilda survivor. That’s because this designation is always changing as new research emerges.

READ MORE: Wreckage of the Last U.S. Slave Ship Is Finally Identified in Alabama

For a long time, scholars considered Cudjo Lewis, or Kossola, to be the last survivor. He lived in Africatown, a community of Clotilda survivors in Alabama, until 1935. Public awareness of him rose in 2018 when Harper Collins released a previously unpublished interview that Zora Neale Hurston conducted with him. The next year Hannah Durkin, a lecturer in literature and film of Newcastle University, identified Sally Smith, or Redoshi, as the last survivor because she died in 1937.

Diouf identified another survivor, Matilda McCrear, in National Geographic’s February 2020 cover story. On March 19, Durkin published a paper in the journal Slavery & Abolition stating Matilda had lived even longer than Sally Smith. Diouf then revealed further information about Matilda for National Geographic. According to the scholars' research, Matilda passed away in Selma, Alabama in 1940 at age 82. She is survived by a big family that includes living grandchildren.

Matilda’s Family

Matilda’s granddaughter Eva Berry “was 12 when Matilda died,” Diouf says. That means she was old enough to remember hearing her grandmother talk about her captivity on a slave ship, life in slavery and emancipation. “To think that there’s still somebody alive today whose grandmother was on a slave ship…it’s really, I think, unique.”

Matilda was about seven when slavery ended. Her family—which now included her stepfather Guy, a fellow Clotilda survivor on Creagh’s plantation—settled in Athens, Alabama. Since Gracie and Guy didn’t speak much English, young Matilda helped translate for her parents when they went to the local store. Over the years, her surname evolved from “Creagh”—the name of her former enslaver—to “McCrear,” her preferred name.

Matilda gave birth to her first child, Eliza, at age 14 while living in Athens. The father was a white man, and given the prevalence of white male sexual violence toward black women and girls in the south at that time, the pregnancy may have been conceived in rape. She gave birth to two more mixed-race children during that period in Athens.

After her mother’s death in 1879, Matilda, now a mother of three in her early 20s, moved to Martin Station, Alabama with her children. There, she met and began a relationship with Jacob Schuler, a white German immigrant. Over 17 years, they had seven children together.

“They didn’t live together,” Diouf says. “That would have been not done at the time in that place. But they had this long relationship for 17 years, and she never married. He never married either… And his children knew him.”

“Her life story really brings home just how recently the slave trade ended," Durkin says. "And of course her acts of bravery, including her claim for reparations, help to highlight the links between slavery and the civil rights movement.”

In Search of Reparations











Durken and Diouf identified Matilda in a 1931 article in The Selma Times-Journal. Informed by her grandsons that WWI veterans had just received their overdue bonuses, Matilda had walked the 17 miles to Selma to request that she receive some compensation, too, for being kidnapped and brought to the country as a toddler. As proof that she was from Africa, she showed the marks on her cheek.

The judge denied her any reparations just as Timothy Meaher, the slaveowner who organized the illegal Clotilda journey, had denied reparations to the ship’s survivors back in 1865. Cudjo Lewis told Zora Neale Hurston that when he asked Timothy Meaher about reparations for the Clotilda survivors, he responded: “Fool do you think I goin’ give you property on top of property? I tookee good keer my slaves and derefo’ I doan owe dem nothin.”

Even with so much stolen from them, Cudjo Lewis and many other Clotlida survivors were able to purchase land to build their own community of Africatown near Mobile, Alabama. The town has struggled economically in the past couple of decades; it has survived Hurricane Katrina and dangerous levels of industrial pollution, including from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After the 2019 discovery of the Clotlida’s wreckage, Africatown hoped to draw tourism revenue from an upcoming exhibit about the ship.

Still, attempts to revive Africatown have received little attention from the Meaher family that still owns a lot of land in Alabama. In an interview for National Geographic’s February 2020 cover story, Timothy Meaher’s great-grandson Robert Meaher questioned whether the Clotilda’s wreckage is real, emphasized that Timothy never went to prison for his slave-trading crimes (many white men didn’t) and tried to justify the crimes by saying that Cudjo Lewis became a Christian in the U.S. He also said he is not open to meeting with the ship’s survivors.


Last surviving slave to have been shipped to the US revealed to be woman who died in 1940 aged 83

The last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade has been revealed as a woman who died in 1940 aged 83.

Historians previously believed the last living slave brought to the United States from Africa was a woman called Redoshi Smith, who died in 1937.

But now Matilda McCrear has been revealed as the most recent surviving captive.

Much of her fascinating life story was unknown to her family, who were unaware she was brought to America on board the Clotilda – the last slave ship bound from Africa to the US.

After emancipation McCrear had 14 children with a white German-born man who historians believe was most likely Jewish.

And in the 1930s she launched a legal bid to try and get reparations for former slaves.

Matilda McCrear died in Selma, Alabama, in 1940. She was is thought to be the last survivor of the the slaves on board the Clotilda ship

The Clotilda slave ship brought more than 100 slaves to Mobile, Alabama in 1860 as was last known transatlantic vessel to do so

Dr Hannah Durkin, at the University of Newcastle, who first identified Smith, then discovered McCrear while researching the Clotilda.

Drawing on a newspaper interview with McCrear in the 1930s and piecing together genealogical data, her study charts her experiences from slavery to the Great Depression, right up to the start of World War II.

Dr Durkin, whose research is published in the Slavery and Abolition journal, said McCrear may not have discussed her past as a slave, even with her family, due to the stigma attached.

She told the BBC: ‘But Matilda’s story is particularly remarkable because she resisted what was expected of a black woman in the US South in the years after emancipation.

‘There was a lot of stigma attached to having been a slave. The shame was placed on the people who were enslaved, rather than the slavers.’

Slaves aboard a slave ship being shackled before being put in the hold circa 1835

The last known ship to take slaves from Africa to the US

The schooner Clotilda was the last known US slave ship to bring captives from Africa to America.

It landed at Mobile Bay, Alabama, with between 110 to 160 slaves in July 1860, although some historians believe it arrived in autumn 1859.

Under the command of Captain William Foster, the ship was commissioned by wealthy Mobile shipyard owner and steamboat captain, Timothy Meaher.

Meaher launched the expedition to smuggle slaves into America, despite the importation being illegal, as part of a wager with another wealthy businessman from New Orleans.

He carried $9,000 in gold for purchase of slaves and was said to pay $100 for each.

Captain Foster met with the King of Dahomey – modern day Benin – after learning West African tribes were fighting and he was willing to sell prisoners captured in warfare.

Those taken on Clotilda were primarily Tarkbar people taken in a raid in present-day Ghana.

Fearful of criminal charges on his return to the US, the ship was disguised as it sailed to its destination.

Captain Foster then brought the schooner into the Port of Mobile at night and had it towed up the Spanish River to the Alabama River at Twelve Mile Island.

He transferred the slaves to a river steamboat, then burned the Clotilda before sinking it.

The West Africans taken by Meaher were held on his plantation and some were sold to other slave traders.

McCrear was captured by slave traders in West Africa at the age of two and was taken to Alabama in 1860 on board the last known transatlantic slave ship.

She was one of between 110 to 160 slaves taken from Dahomey, which is now modern day Benin, and transported to Mobile Bay, Alabama, in secret as the importation of slaves had been banned by Congress in 1807.

McCrear’s mother, Grace, and sister Sallie, were also taken, while her father and two brothers were left behind in Africa.

All three tried to escape the plantation soon after they arrived but were recaptured and after being sold to different plantation owners, McCrear never saw her mother again.

Although the importation of slaves has been made illegal, slavery in the US was not abolished until 1865.

When emancipation came, McCrear and her family, like many other former slaves, became trapped in poverty and worked the land as share-croppers.

But McCrear refused to conform to what was expected. She never married and had a common-law marriage for decades with her German-born man partner.

Even though she was taken as a toddler, McCrear wore traditional Yoruba dress and had facial markings that are still practiced in the African region today.

She is believed to have initially lived in a community of surviving African slaves in Mobile, known as Africatown, that worked to preserve their traditional way of life such as their West African music and language.

While in her 70s, McCrear fought to get compensation for her enslavement with a legal action at the county courthouse.

But unsurprisingly her claim, brought during a time of racial segregation in the Deep South, was dismissed.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, leading off the final lap to the state capitol at Montgomery, Alabama, after marching from Selma in March 1965

Civil rights marchers carrying flags and playing the flute as they approached their goal from Selma to Montgomery in 1965

Her bold move did bring attention from local newspapers and and interview with McCrear at the time shed light on her life story and formed the basis of Durkin’s research.

McCrear died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940. Just 20 years later the town became a flashpoint for the Civil Rights movement when Martin Luther King and his followers carried out a protest march from to Montgomery.

Johnny Crear, her 83-year-old grandson, says he had no idea about his grandmother’s historic past.

He was born in the house where she died and would have been a baby when his grandmother died.

Crear witnessed the violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, but did not known his grandmother had been a slave.

He told the BBC: ‘I had a lot of mixed emotions. I thought if she hadn’t undergone what had happened, I wouldn’t be here. But that was followed by anger.

‘This [the research] fills in a lot of the holes that we have about her.’

In the 1960s, he had witnessed violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, where protesters had been addressed by Dr Martin Luther King.

Africatown set up in Alabama by a group of former slaves wh were brought to the US on board the Clotilda ship

Africatown is a community founded by some 32 former slaves who were on board the Clotilda on the north side of Mobile, Alabama.

Cudjo Kazoola Lewis was said to be a chief and the oldest slave on the ship and after the Civil War was among the founders of Africatown.

They were joined by other continental Africans and formed a community that continued to practice many of their West African traditions and Yoruba language for decades.

The flags of the nations of Benin and Togo, the west African homes of the survivors of the Clotilda, remain on display on a monument at what was the Africatown Welcome Center in Mobile, Alabama

The group retained their West African customs and language into the 1950s, while their children and some elders also learned English

Some 100 descendants of the Clotilda slaves still live in Africatown, and others are around the US.

Lewis lived until 1935 and was long thought to be the last survivor of the slaves from the Clotilda.

But West African woman, Redoshi Smith, who died in 1937 was discovered by Dr Hannah Durkin, at the University of Newcastle.


Final survivor of last American slave ship identified

The final survivor of the transatlantic slave trade has been identified after painstaking research.

Matilda McCrear was just two years old when she was captured by slave traders in West Africa and transport to the U.S. on the Clotilda, the last American slave ship. The Clotilda docked in Mobile, Alabama in July 1860.

McCrear died in 1940, aged 82 or 83.

Dr. Hannah Durkin, a lecturer in Literature and Film at Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, uncovered McCrear’s story when she read an interview with her in the Selma Times-Journal. Durkin then used census data and other records to piece her life together.

Matilda McCrear (The Crear family)

The research enabled McCrear’s 83-year-old grandson Johnny Crear to find out about his grandmother’s story.

“I had no idea she’d been on the Clotilda,” he said in a statement released by Newcastle University. “It came as a real surprise.

“Her story gives me mixed emotions because if she hadn’t been brought here, I wouldn’t be here,” he added. “But it’s hard to read about what she experienced.”

The research revealed that Matilda was brought to the U.S. with her mother Gracie, her three older sisters and the man who would go on to be her stepfather. Two of her brothers were left in West Africa.

“On arrival in the USA, Matilda was bought by Memorable Walker Creagh along with her ten-year-old sister Sallie and her mother Gracie," explained Newcastle University in the statement. "Gracie was forcibly paired with Guy, another Clotilda survivor, while her two oldest daughters were bought by another slave owner and never seen again.”

Durkin explained that McCrear never married instead, she had a decades-long common law marriage with a white German-born man, with whom she had 14 children.

“Even though she left West Africa when she was a toddler, she appears throughout her life to have worn her hair in a traditional Yoruba style, a style presumably taught to her by her mother. She also changed her surname from Creagh – her former enslaver’s spelling-- to McCrear,” Durkin explained.

Previously, the final survivor of the last American slave ship was thought to be Redoshi, who was also onboard the Clotilda. Given the slave name Sally Smith, Redoshi died in Alabama in 1937.

Durkin read the interview with McCrear in the Selma Times-Journal while she was researching Redoshi.

Prior to the identification of Redoshi, the last survivor of the Clotilda was thought to be Oluale Kossola, also known as Cudjo Lewis, who died in 1935.

Part of the triangular trade in slaves and goods between Africa, the Americas and Europe, the transatlantic transport of slaves is known as the Middle Passage. Between the 16th and the 19th centuries, around 12 million African slaves were shipped to the Americas, according to the Boston African American National Historical Site. About 15 percent of slaves died during the horrific voyages, which lasted around 80 days.

“In some ways Matilda was more fortunate than the vast majority of Middle Passage survivors,” said Durkin, in the statement. “She got to stay with her mother and one of her sisters, and because she was only two when she was taken from Africa, she was still very young when she was emancipated.”

“But make no mistake, her life was incredibly hard,” Durkin added. “The story of Matilda and her family highlights the horrors of slavery, the abuses of the US South’s sharecropping system, the injustices of segregation and the suffering of black farmers during the Great Depression.”

McCrear was in her 70s when she was interviewed by the Selma Times-Journal. She had come to Dallas County Courthouse in Selma in 1931 to make an unsuccessful claim for compensation for herself and Redoshi as Clotilda survivors.

“Matilda McCrear's story helps us to understand what the slave trade and its aftermath were like for a little girl and her family,” Durkin told Fox News via email. “Even more remarkably, McCrear's claim for compensation in Selma in 1931 preempted later work there by Civil Rights Movement campaigners and her death in 1940 reminds us just how recently the slave trade ended.”

In 2017, it was reported that the remains of the Clotilda may have been found in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Alabama. The notorious ship was set ablaze after delivering its captive cargo from Benin in West Africa to Mobile. Subsequent analysis, however, revealed that the wreckage does not belong to the Clotilda. The remains of the ship, however, were discovered in Alabama last year.


Researcher Identifies the Last Known Survivor of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

In July 1860, a ship called the Clotilda docked off the shore of Mobile, Atlanta, under the cover of darkness. The 110 men, women and children onboard, all kidnapped from West Africa, were distributed to slaveholders despite the fact that Congress had outlawed the international slave trade more than 50 years earlier.

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The Clotilda was, in fact, the last documented ship to transport people from Africa to slavery in the United States. And now, reports Sean Coughlan for BBC News, a British historian has identified the ship’s last known survivor.

Hannah Durkin of Newcastle University used genealogical data and a single newspaper interview to piece together the story of Matilda McCrear, who died in 1940 at the age of 81 or 82—three years after the death of Redoshi, a woman whom the historian had previously identified as the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade.

Describing her research in the journal Slavery & Abolition, Durkin notes that McCrear does not seem to have appeared in any film footage nor was she mentioned in any books. No obituaries mark her death. Instead, Durkin relied largely on an interview that appeared in the Selma Times-Journal after McCrear tried to claim compensation as a Clotilda survivor in 1931. The article, which Durkin discovered while researching Redoshi, is problematic as Durkin notes, it was written by a white woman who “reveals a dismissive attitude to McCrear that elides much of her family’s suffering.” But the piece nevertheless offers key insight into McCrear’s often-heartbreaking biography.

She belonged to the Yoruba people of West Africa and was just 2 years old when she was captured by traders and brought on board the Clotilda along with her mother, Gracie sister Sallie and two other unnamed sisters. Two of her brothers were left behind in Africa, providing “rare insight into the Middle Passage as a site of maternal loss,” according to Durkin.

Upon their arrival in the United States, McCrear, Sallie and Gracie were purchased by slaveholder Memorable Walker Creagh her two other sisters were sold to a different owner, per Newcastle University, and McCrear never saw them again. Gracie was sold to Creagh as the “wife” of a Clotilda survivor named Guy, though it is likely that their association “was random and part of a wider practice of selling off Clotilda survivors as ‘breeding pairs,’” writes Durkin.

Redoshi seen in “The Negro Farmer: Extension Work for Better Farming and Better Living" (Department of Agriculture / National Archives)

Because McCrear was so young during the journey from Africa to America, most of her knowledge of that time period was passed down from her mother. But she had a distinct memory of fleeing into a swamp with her sister to escape her captors and hiding for several hours until the overseers’ dogs sniffed the girls out. McCrear would have been 3 years old at the time, her sister 11. That they went “to such lengths to escape captivity,” according to Durkin, “brings to light the miserable treatment that they endured even as young children and shows how profound was their sense of dislocation and desperation to return home.”

McCrear was still a young child when the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was adopted in 1865, but her family continued to work as sharecroppers, likely of cotton, for a landowner. As McCrear grew older, she displayed a determined, even defiant streak. She changed her last name from that of her former owner—Creagh—to McCrear wore her hair in a traditional Yoruba style and, though she never married, had a decades-long relationship with a white German man. Together, they had 14 children.

“McCrear’s long-term relationship with Schuler should be read as a major act of resistance to racist laws forbidding black and white people from marrying that were in place throughout the South until the U.S. Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in . 1967,” writes Durkin.

When she was in her 70s, McCrear traveled 15 miles from her rural cabin to the County Courthouse in Selma, Alabama, hoping to obtain financial assistance as a Clotilda survivor. She knew that Cudjo “Kossola” Lewis, another survivor of the ship, had received compensation, and asked that both she and Redoshi be granted similar benefits. Her plea, however, was dismissed, and she ultimately died in poverty.

Johnny Crear, McCrear’s 83-year-old grandson, tells Newcastle University that he was completely unaware that his grandmother had been on the Clotilda prior to Durkin’s research.

“Her story gives me mixed emotions because if she hadn’t been brought here, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. “But it’s hard to read about what she experienced.”

Researchers discovered the remains of the Clotilda along the Mobile River last year. As Allison Keyes reported for Smithsonian magazine in April 2019, the ship’s captain, William Foster, had ordered it taken upstream, burned and sunk to conceal evidence of his crew’s illicit actions. Though the Clotilda’s survivors were freed by Union soldiers in 1865, they were unable to raise enough funds to return to Africa. Instead, the men and women pooled their wages and purchased a plot of land nearby. Dubbed Africatown, the society was rooted in its residents’ “beloved homeland,” according to Smithsonian.

“I knew what that ship represents, the story and the pain of the descendant community. I’ve heard the voices I can look them in the eye and see the pain of the whole Africatown experience over the past hundred plus years,” Kamau Sadiki, a diver involved with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Slave Wrecks Project, told Smithsonian last year. “They have been very resilient. The Clotilda should be known by everyone who calls themselves an American because it is so pivotal to the American story.”


Last Known U.S. Slave Ship Survivor Identified in New Research

The last known slave taken from Africa has been identified. The final slave vessel carrying Africans approached the U.S. coastline some 159 years ago. One of the persons on that vessel has now been singled out as the last known slave ship survivor who crossed the Atlantic, reveals new research conducted by a Newcastle University academic.

Her name on arrival became Sally Smith, aged only 12 and one of 116 people on board the schooner Clotilda, after she was forcefully taken from her home village in present-day Benin, West Africa. Her final destination would be Mobile, Alabama, where she was sent to a plantation in 1860.

The finding was made by Dr. Hannah Durkin, a Lecturer in Literature and Film at the School of English Literature at Newcastle University. Dr. Durkin stitched together the story of the African woman drawing on several sources, including archived material, census records and accounts obtained firsthand.

Photograph of wreckage of slave ship Clotilda from ‘Historic sketches of the South’ by Emma Langdon Roche

Previously, a co-passenger of Sally Smith on her transatlantic voyage aboard Clotilda, called Oluale Kossola, or Cudjo Lewis, was thought to be the last survivor of the slave ships. Lewis passed away in 1935, two years before Smith’s own end in 1937. She passed away in Selma, Alabama, at about 89 or 90 years of age.

The details of Smith’s life were presented in the journal Slavery & Abolition on April 2, 2019. The article sketches out the life of the former slave, providing details from both her life under slavery and her life of freedom following the 1865 abolition.

Cudjo Kazoola Lewis photographed with Abache (Clara Turner) by Emma Roche, c. 1914. By then there were eight surviving members of the Clotilda group.

Before obtaining an American name, the woman was called Redoshi. It is known that as a child she lived a peaceful life before she was forcefully removed from her home. The research effort is significant as it contemplates on several aspects of transatlantic slavery and the angle in this case of the last known slave from Africa, an individual woman, a female survivor, is something rare.

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According to the press release which appeared on the Newcastle University website, “Redoshi appears in several sources, including a film which contains the only known footage of a female transatlantic slavery survivor.” Redoshi was featured in writings by Zora Neale Hurston, writer, anthropologist, and beacon of African-American literature, who died in 1960. More of her appearances have been traced to newspaper articles and it seems Redoshi was also acquainted with Amelia Boynton Robinson, a prominent activist on civil rights, since she is featured in Robinson’s memoir.

“These materials add hugely to our understanding of transatlantic slavery as a lived experience,” said Dr. Durkin in a statement. She first found mention of Redoshi while doing other research, and after noticing references to her name by Hurston. Dr. Durkin then continued to meticulously search and compile more material.

Portrait of an African Slave Woman, probably painted by Annibale Carracci in the 1580s

Slavery was abolished in the U.S. only five years later. During those years, children were born into slavery and who indeed outlived Redoshi, but it is she who remains as the last survivor among those abducted, then brought to another continent. Redoshi continued work on the same property after the 1865 abolition. Her husband was also from West Africa and the pair raised one daughter.

Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicting celebration in the House of Representatives after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment

Some of the materials that helped the research on Redoshi’s life were produced by historians and activists of the past century when early attempts were made to chronicle the encounters of Africans taken to slavery.

While Redoshi experienced the known horrors of slavery, the research further suggests she also resisted. She cared about her African origins and she helped her daughter partially learn her mother tongue. Also important for her was to have ownership of some land in the U.S.

In another comment on Redoshi’s story, Dr. Durkin states that slavery “endured in living memory until 1937, and they allow us to meaningfully consider slavery from a West African woman’s perspective for the first time.”

“Rarely do we get to hear the story of an individual woman, let alone see what she looked like, how she dressed and where she lived,” she said.

The research may additionally help former slaves descendants look after their ancestry. According to Dr. Durkin, people who have family relations with survivors of the Clotilda have the rare opportunity to look for their ancestral lines back in Africa.


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Last survivor of transatlantic slave trade discovered

Hannah Durkin, at Newcastle University, had previously identified the last surviving slave captured in Africa in the 19th Century and brought to United States as a woman called Redoshi Smith, who died in 1937.

But she has now discovered that another former slave, Matilda McCrear, had lived three years later.

Matilda died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940, at the age 83 - and her rebellious life story was the last living link with slaves abducted from Africa.

Her 83-year-old grandson, Johnny Crear, had no idea about his grandmother's historic story.

In the 1960s, he had witnessed violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, where protesters had been addressed by Dr Martin Luther King.

On discovering his grandmother had been enslaved, he told BBC News: "I had a lot of mixed emotions.

"I thought if she hadn't undergone what had happened, I wouldn't be here.

"But that was followed by anger."

Matilda had been captured by slave traders in West Africa at the age of two, arriving in Alabama in 1860 on board one of the last transatlantic slave ships.

With her mother Grace, and sister Sallie, Matilda had been bought by a wealthy plantation owner called Memorable Creagh.

Dr Durkin says there must have been a dreadful sense of separation, loss and disorientation for these families. Matilda's mother had lost the father of her children and two other sons left behind in Africa.

And in the US she had been powerless to stop two daughters being taken from her, sold to another owner and never seen again.

Matilda, Grace, and Sallie tried to escape the plantation soon after they arrived but they were recaptured.

The abolition of slavery, in 1865, brought emancipation but Matilda's family still worked the land, trapped in poverty as share-croppers. It seems Grace did not ever learn much English.

"But Matilda's story is particularly remarkable because she resisted what was expected of a black woman in the US South in the years after emancipation," Dr Durkin says.

"Instead, she had a decades-long common-law marriage with a white German-born man, with whom she had 14 children."

It also seems likely that her partner was Jewish, says Dr Durkin.

The couple's relationship was "astonishing" for its era, she says, crossing boundaries of race, class, religion and social expectation.

And Matilda changed her surname from Creagh, the slave owner's, to McCrear.

She was remarkably strong willed, Dr Durkin says.

"Even though she left West Africa when she was a toddler, she appears throughout her life to have worn her hair in a traditional Yoruba style, a style presumably taught to her by her mother," says Dr Durkin, whose research is published in the journal, Slavery and Abolition.

She also carried the facial markings from a traditional rite in Africa.

In her 70s, Matilda set out on another journey, travelling for 15 miles on dirt roads to a county courthouse to make a claim for compensation for her enslavement.

By then, she was one of a small number of surviving slaves from Africa who seem to have made contact with each other.

There was a settlement near Mobile, Alabama, of descendants of slaves from the same ship as Matilda, where the West African language of Yoruba was spoken.

In the Deep South in the 1930s, this bid for compensation, brought by a poor, black, female, former slave, had little chance of a sympathetic hearing and her claim was dismissed.

But such a provocative idea, reparation for slavery, attracted local press attention and the interviews helped to fill in some details of her life.

When she died, with the still raw history of slavery remaining a difficult and dangerous topic, there were no obituaries - and no recognition.

"There was a lot of stigma attached to having been a slave," Dr Durkin says.

"The shame was placed on the people who were enslaved, rather than the slavers."

"I was born in the same house where she died," said her grandson, Mr Crear.

And although his family knew Matilda was originally from Africa, nothing much was spoken about her life.

"This fills in a lot of the holes that we have about her," he says of Dr Durkin's research.

But the cruelty Matilda faced is no surprise to him.

"From the day the first African was brought to this continent as a slave, we've had to fight for freedom," he says.

He grew up in an era of racial segregation - and his parents put a huge emphasis on education as the way to escape poverty and the "key to changing the world".

But the lack of knowledge about his grandmother reflects how much of the history of slavery still lies below the surface.

"It doesn't surprise me that she was so rebellious," Mr Crear says.

In the civil rights protests, they were singing songs with roots in the years of slavery, he says, tapping into the same "continuous struggle and fight" and pursuing the same the goals of "real freedom and equality" as his independent-minded grandmother.

"It's refreshing to know she had the kind of spirit that's uplifting," he says.

But it is still sobering to think how the glamour of 1940s Hollywood overlapped so directly with the lives of women and children brought in chains from Africa.


Àbáké: America’s Last Slave Ship Survivor Denied by the System and Betrayed by History

Critics believe that Àbáké and other slaves like her have not only been denied by the system but also betrayed by history.

The last known survivor of America’s last official slave ship died in 1940 her story is proof that despite racism and slavery may have been legally abolished, it still exists to date.

Àbáké (meaning “born to be loved by all”) was only two years old when she arrived in Alabama in 1860. Her facial tribal marks—which are preserved in photographs—proves she came from the Yoruba people of West Africa.

Her family was captured by the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey and taken to the slave port of Ouidah in the present-day Republic of Benin.

There, Captain William Foster and his crew illegally purchased them and over 100 others to traffic into the United States on the Clotilda, the last known U.S. slave ship. Even though the slave trade had been abolished in the United States in 1807, slave importation still occurred in America until 1860 and beyond.

Upon reaching the United States, a prominent Alabama slaveowner named Walker Creagh bought Àbáké, her mother, and her 10-year-old sister to work on his plantation. He changed her name from “Àbáké” to “Matilda”, and renamed her mother and sister “Gracie” and “Sallie” respectively. Another slaveowner bought her two older sisters, and “Àbáké” (now Matilda) never saw them again.

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By the time “Àbáké” died in 1940, she had lived through the Civil War, Jim Crow laws era, World War I, the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Yet, many African slaves like her she was denied by the system and betrayed by history.

Sylviane A. Diouf, author of the book ‘Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda’ carried research on “Àbáké” in 2007.

According to Diouf’s report for national Geographic, “Àbáké” granddaughter Eva Berry “was 12 when Matilda died”. That means she was old enough to remember hearing her grandmother talk about her captivity on a slave ship, life in slavery, and emancipation. Àbáké was about seven when slavery ended, many slaves were freed after the Civil War of 1865.

Reports indicate that Àbáké (now known as Matilda McCrear) gave birth to her first child, Eliza, at age 14 while living in Athens. The father was a white man, and given the prevalence of white male sexual violence toward black women and girls in the south at that time, the pregnancy may have been conceived in rape.

She gave birth to two more mixed-race children during that period in Athens.

After her mother died in 1879, Matilda, now a mother of three in her early 20s, moved to Martin Station, Alabama with her children. While at Martin Station, she met and began a relationship with Jacob Schuler, a white German immigrant. Over 17 years, they had seven children together.

In 1931, Àbáké was informed by her grandsons that veterans of World War 1 were being paid their overdue bonuses. She walked 17 miles to Selma to request compensation and showed the marks on her cheeks as proof that she was kidnapped and brought to America as a toddler.

But Àbáké was denied by the system. Diouf recorded that the judge denied her any reparations just as Timothy Meaher, the slaveowner who organized the illegal Clotilda journey, had denied reparations to the ship’s survivors back in 1865.

When asked about reparations for the Clotilda survivors, Timothy Meaher responded: “Fool do you think I goin’ give you property on top of property? I tookee good keer my slaves and derefo’ I doan owe dem nothin.”

Critics believe that Àbáké and other slaves like her have not only been denied by the system but also betrayed by history. Like the famous Black American novelist and activist – James Baldwin puts it ‘people are trapped in history and history is trapped in them’.


Clotilda (slave ship)

The schooner Clotilda (often misspelled Clotilde) was the last known U.S. slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States, arriving at Mobile Bay, in autumn 1859 [1] or July 9, 1860, [2] [3] with 110–160 slaves. [1] The ship was a two-masted schooner, 86 feet (26 m) long with a beam of 23 ft (7.0 m).

U.S. involvement in the Atlantic slave trade had been banned by Congress through the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves enacted on March 2, 1807 (effective January 1, 1808), but the practice continued illegally, especially through slave traders based in New York in the 1850s and early 1860. In the case of the Clotilda, the voyage's sponsors were based in the South and planned to buy slaves in Whydah, Dahomey. [1] [2] After the voyage, the ship was burned and scuttled in Mobile Bay in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Cudjo Kazoola Lewis [1] [2] was said to be a chief and the oldest slave on the ship. After the Civil War, he and thirty-one other former slaves founded Africatown on the north side of Mobile, Alabama. They were joined by other continental Africans and formed a community that continued to practice many of their West African traditions and Yoruba language for decades.

A spokesman for the community, Cudjo Lewis lived until 1935 and was one of the last survivors from the Clotilda. Redoshi, another captive on the Clotilda, was sold to a planter in Dallas County, Alabama, where she became known also as Sally Smith. She married, had a daughter, and lived to 1937 in Bogue Chitto. She was long thought to have been the last survivor of the Clotilda. [4] Research published in 2020 indicated that another survivor, Matilda McCrear, lived until 1940. [5]

Some 100 descendants of the Clotilda slaves still live in Africatown, and others are around the country. After World War II, the neighborhood was absorbed by the city of Mobile. A memorial bust of Lewis was placed in front of the historic Union Missionary Baptist Church. [2] The Africatown historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. In May 2019, the Alabama Historical Commission announced that remnants of a ship found along the Mobile River, near 12 Mile Island and just north of the Mobile Bay delta, were confirmed as the Clotilda. [6]


Last survivor of transatlantic slave trade discovered

Hannah Durkin, at Newcastle University, had previously identified the last surviving slave captured in Africa in the 19th Century and brought to United States as a woman called Redoshi Smith, who died in 1937.

But she has now discovered that another former slave, Matilda McCrear, had lived three years later.

Matilda died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940, at the age 83 - and her rebellious life story was the last living link with slaves abducted from Africa.

Her 83-year-old grandson, Johnny Crear, had no idea about his grandmother's historic story.

In the 1960s, he had witnessed violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, where protesters had been addressed by Dr Martin Luther King.

On discovering his grandmother had been enslaved, he told BBC News: "I had a lot of mixed emotions.

"I thought if she hadn't undergone what had happened, I wouldn't be here.

"But that was followed by anger."

Matilda had been captured by slave traders in West Africa at the age of two, arriving in Alabama in 1860 on board one of the last transatlantic slave ships.

With her mother Grace, and sister Sallie, Matilda had been bought by a wealthy plantation owner called Memorable Creagh.

Dr Durkin says there must have been a dreadful sense of separation, loss and disorientation for these families. Matilda's mother had lost the father of her children and two other sons left behind in Africa.

And in the US she had been powerless to stop two daughters being taken from her, sold to another owner and never seen again.

Matilda, Grace, and Sallie tried to escape the plantation soon after they arrived but they were recaptured.

The abolition of slavery, in 1865, brought emancipation but Matilda's family still worked the land, trapped in poverty as share-croppers. It seems Grace did not ever learn much English.

"But Matilda's story is particularly remarkable because she resisted what was expected of a black woman in the US South in the years after emancipation," Dr Durkin says.

"Instead, she had a decades-long common-law marriage with a white German-born man, with whom she had 14 children."

It also seems likely that her partner was Jewish, says Dr Durkin.

The couple's relationship was "astonishing" for its era, she says, crossing boundaries of race, class, religion and social expectation.

And Matilda changed her surname from Creagh, the slave owner's, to McCrear.

She was remarkably strong willed, Dr Durkin says.

"Even though she left West Africa when she was a toddler, she appears throughout her life to have worn her hair in a traditional Yoruba style, a style presumably taught to her by her mother," says Dr Durkin, whose research is published in the journal, Slavery and Abolition.

She also carried the facial markings from a traditional rite in Africa.

In her 70s, Matilda set out on another journey, travelling for 15 miles on dirt roads to a county courthouse to make a claim for compensation for her enslavement.

By then, she was one of a small number of surviving slaves from Africa who seem to have made contact with each other.

There was a settlement near Mobile, Alabama, of descendants of slaves from the same ship as Matilda, where the West African language of Yoruba was spoken.

In the Deep South in the 1930s, this bid for compensation, brought by a poor, black, female, former slave, had little chance of a sympathetic hearing and her claim was dismissed.

But such a provocative idea, reparation for slavery, attracted local press attention and the interviews helped to fill in some details of her life.

When she died, with the still raw history of slavery remaining a difficult and dangerous topic, there were no obituaries - and no recognition.

"There was a lot of stigma attached to having been a slave," Dr Durkin says.

"The shame was placed on the people who were enslaved, rather than the slavers."

"I was born in the same house where she died," said her grandson, Mr Crear.

And although his family knew Matilda was originally from Africa, nothing much was spoken about her life.

"This fills in a lot of the holes that we have about her," he says of Dr Durkin's research.

But the cruelty Matilda faced is no surprise to him.

"From the day the first African was brought to this continent as a slave, we've had to fight for freedom," he says.

He grew up in an era of racial segregation - and his parents put a huge emphasis on education as the way to escape poverty and the "key to changing the world".

But the lack of knowledge about his grandmother reflects how much of the history of slavery still lies below the surface.

"It doesn't surprise me that she was so rebellious," Mr Crear says.

In the civil rights protests, they were singing songs with roots in the years of slavery, he says, tapping into the same "continuous struggle and fight" and pursuing the same the goals of "real freedom and equality" as his independent-minded grandmother.

"It's refreshing to know she had the kind of spirit that's uplifting," he says.

But it is still sobering to think how the glamour of 1940s Hollywood overlapped so directly with the lives of women and children brought in chains from Africa.


Watch the video: Smuglerne


Comments:

  1. Ansel

    stupid

  2. Yrjo

    Bravo, the excellent message

  3. Alonso

    you have been wrong, this is evident.

  4. Kazizuru

    Bravo, a brilliant idea



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