The past and the truth are always present.

History exists beyond what is written. The Africatown residents in Mobile, Alabama have shared stories about their origins for generations. Their community was founded by enslaved ancestors who were transported in 1860 aboard the last known and illegal slave ship, the Clotilda. Though the ship was intentionally destroyed upon arrival, its memory and legacy weren’t. Now, the long-awaited discovery of the Clotilda’s remains offers this community a tangible link to their ancestors and validation of a history so many tried to bury.

Director Margaret Brown’s layered contemplation explores the interplay between memory and evidence and the question of how history passes and is preserved. Brown also reveals the enduring power imbalance that persists between the descendants of Timothy Meaher, the man who chartered the illegal expedition, and the descendants of those who were enslaved aboard it. The Meaher family owns much of the heavily industrialized area that surrounds Africatown. Elevated cases of cancer and illness are prevalent there, but the Africatown community persists. Residents celebrate their heritage and take command of their legacy by bringing their history to the surface.

Joycelyn Davis
Descendant of Charlie & Maggie Lewis

A Netflix Original Documentary

In Descendant, award-winning filmmaker Margaret Brown returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, to document the search for and historic discovery of the Clotilda, the last known ship to arrive in the United States, illegally carrying 110 kidnapped Africans.



Partnering with community-led organizations, the campaign worked to preserve and document the legacy of the ancestors of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States, while combating environmental issues threatening the community now residing in Africatown, Alabama.

The campaign advanced the community’s environmental justice advocacy efforts by strengthening relationships between community leaders and national campaign partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Vice President and the Council on Environmental Quality.

The Meaher family (descendants of Timothy Meaher, who led the voyage that enslaved those on the Clotilda) released their first ever public statement condemning their ancestor’s actions. 

The Africatown Futures Fund and cohort, in partnership with the Big We and the Solutions Project, was established to build a long-term commitment to support economic development, environmental justice and historical preservation in the community. 


The Clotilda story is a uniquely American story.

The Clotilda story highlights the direct connection that the horrors of the past have to the injustices of today.


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Many descendants of the Clotilda survivors still reside in Africatown.

They stand in the truth of their history with resilience — despite facing social, economic and environmental injustices perpetuated by systemic racism.

Today, as Africatown gains recognition for its importance in American history, local organizations are working to ensure that the legacy of the ancestors is preserved and documented.

Only by understanding the truth about our past can we begin to work towards a more equitable future.

Uncover Your Descendant Story

Poster for the film Descendant.
Margaret Brown
Margaret Brown, Dr. Kern Jackson
Kyle Martin, Essie Chambers, Margaret Brown
Dr. Kern Jackson
Executive Producers
Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Kate Hurwitz, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee, Zarah Zohlman
Michael Bloch, Geoffrey Richman

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