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, 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.
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