Embark on an enriching educational journey with your students at the newly opened Africatown Heritage House, nestled in the heart of historic Plateau, Alabama. This unique attraction not only preserves history but also offers a profound exploration of Africatown’s rich heritage, and the resilience of the survivors of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States in 1860.
The Story So Far
The history here goes back to the summer of 1860, when a ship carrying 110 African captives slipped into Mobile Bay. The Clotilda made its illegal voyage 52 years after the international slave trade was outlawed. In the years to come, the displaced Africans survived enslavement and established a community as free Americans. They maintained their African identities, creating the tight-knit, independent community known as Africatown (just north of downtown Mobile).
In 2019, it was announced that the Clotilda had been discovered at the bottom of the Mobile River: a tangible link to the names and stories passed down through generations of descendants. The ship’s remains are a testament to the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. The story of the people and the community of Africatown, however, is one of survival and resilience.
A Classroom Through Time
Immerse your students in a captivating historical experience at the Africatown Heritage House. Housed in a newly constructed 5,000-square-foot community-center building, this facility offers a curated journey through time. Half of the space is dedicated to exhibits, starting with the West African culture of those captured and sold to the Clotilda enslavers. The narrative unfolds, focusing on the harrowing 1860 voyage and its aftermath. Personal stories of the survivors take center stage, creating an immersive and educational experience.
Artifacts and Reflection: Hands-On Learning
Enhance your students’ understanding with the inclusion of artifacts recovered from the Clotilda shipwreck, on loan from the Alabama Historical Commission. These tangible relics provide a hands-on learning experience, connecting students directly with historical elements. After exploring the exhibits, students enter a reflection room, followed by access to a meditative garden adorned with African-focused artwork and surrounded by local flora and fauna—a space for contemplation and reflection.
Complementing the Heritage House is the 25-minute animated short film “Surviving Clotilda,” produced by students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). This film serves as an engaging educational tool, bringing the Clotilda journey to life for students. Premiering at the Savannah Film Festival, the film offers a captivating cinematic portrayal that can be integrated into your curriculum. Explore the Surviving Clotilda trailer for a glimpse into this educational experience.
Extend your educational journey by participating in walking and driving tours developed in collaboration with current and former Africatown residents. Supported by local and state tourism departments, these tours provide students with a firsthand look at the vibrant Africatown community. Available tours include:
- Africatown “Return to Culture” Tour
- Africatown Freedom Tours
- All Things Africatown: (251) 680 1688
- What You Say! Touring
- Africatown University, A Wealth of Knowledge
Dora Franklin Finley African American Heritage Trail
History comes alive on the Dora Franklin Finley African-American Heritage Trail. This trail unveils forgotten chapters of history, narrating stories of courage and contributions made by unsung heroes from Mobile’s ethnically diverse past. Motor coach tours, step-on tours, and walking tours are available to cater to your educational objectives.
Historic Blakeley State Park
As part of the immersive educational experience, Historic Blakeley State Park now offers narrated boat tours to the final resting site of the Clotilda.
Africatown Heritage House, opened in just July 2023, offers a wealth of historical knowledge, an educational odyssey through time, culture and the resilient spirit of a community that defied the odds. Plan your student travel adventure today and learn more by visiting mobile.org/things-to-do/history/african-american-heritage/clotilda.
Photos Courtesy of Visit Mobile.