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Alabama steers money for preservation of last slave ship

July 17, 2020 GMT

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is spending $1 million to preserve the remnants of the last slave ship known to have landed in the United States more than 150 years ago.

The Alabama Historical Commission said Thursday that the money will be used to begin Phase 3 of preservation efforts for the Clotilda. The agency said that will include targeted artifact excavation and an engineering study to evaluate what is needed for site protection as well as the integrity of the riverbed for consideration of erecting a memorial on site.

Legislators included the money in the state budget that takes effect Oct. 1.

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“The Clotilda is a priceless and significant artifact very much deserving of our respect and remembrance,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement released by the agency.

The schooner named the Clotilda was sailed to West Africa in 1860 after a wealthy businessman wagered he could bring a shipload of people from Africa to the United States in defiance of laws against slave importation. The ship was burned in a bayou in 1860 to hide evidence of the crime.

After the Civil War, the freed captives settled in a community called Africatown where some of their descendants still live.

“With the confirmation of the vessel, there is no denying the brutality they suffered, and the reality of how they survived and built a community in Alabama in spite of all the things they endured,” state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile said.

The remains of the ship were discovered in 2019. A federal judge granted ownership of the Clotilda shipwreck to the Alabama Historical Commission.