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To: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, members of the Judiciary committee and members of United States Congress.
Reconciliation & Reparations for descendants of the 110 enslaved Africans aboard Clotilda
The United States congress, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should pass H.R. 40 Reparation Bill. Once passed, congress should conduct a study on the reparations owed to descendants of the 110 enslaved Africans aboard Clotilda. Afterwards, the United States government should pass legislations to pay owed reparations to descendants of the 110 enslaved Africans aboard Clotilda.
Why is this important?
The story of the 110 enslaved Africans aboard the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to come to the United States, is an ideal case study for H.R. 40 reparations bill, laying the foundation for future reparations and reconciliation in America. The bill establishes the commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans. The commission is to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies among other requirements.
Around March 1860, 52 years after the abolishment of the transatlantic slave trade and 40 years after amending the Piracy Act of 1819, Captain William Foster, funded by his co-conspirator, Timothy Meaher, set sail for Africa. He and his crew would arrive in the Kingdom of Dahomey around May 15, 1860. Foster would purchase 125 African men, women and children and would pay with $9,000 in gold and merchandise. After spending nine days in Dahomey, Foster loaded 110 of the Africans onto the Clotilda. Upon his return to Mobile, he avoided customs agents, towed the Clotilda up the river, and put the enslaved Africans on the Steamboat Czar, owned by Timothy’s brother, Byrnes (aka Burns) Meaher. The enslaved Africans would then be transported to John Dabney’s Mount Vernon plantation and hidden in the swamp. Timothy Meaher, his brothers Byrnes and James, John Dabney and Foster were all given enslaved people from the Clotilda. Timothy Meaher and his co-conspirators used a sophisticated plan to hide the Africans who were on board, moving them from plantation to plantation while burning the Clotilda. From 1860 to 1865, most of the captives worked as slaves on the plantations of those men. After learning of their freedom in 1865, they approached Timothy Meaher in an attempt to purchase their way back to Africa. He kept raising the fare, and they never accumulated enough money to pay for their voyage. They asked Timothy Meaher to give them land as reparations, but he declined. They would eventually put their money together and purchase land from the Meaher Family. This land is now known as Africatown.
The lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society is highlighted by the challenges in Africatown today. Africatown, once a thriving community with a population of 12,000, now has about 2,500 people. The economy, education and environmental statistics are among the worst in the county and state. And yet the family of Timothy Meaher, the man responsible for the Clotilda’s illegal trip in the mid-1800s, owns a major portion of land in Africatown and continues to flourish financially. Reparations to the 110 and their descendants are owed. The most direct case for reparations is outlined by Dr. Natalie S. Robertson in her book The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Making of AfricaTown, USA. She writes “possibly, an admission of his (Augustine Meaher III, the great-grandson of Timothy Meaher) ancestor’s complicity in the smuggling venture could expose the Meaher estate to claims for reparations by the Clotilda descendants who exist as the human evidence of the Clotilda smuggling crime.” As a sixth-generation descendant of Pollee Allen and Rose Allen, I am the human evidence that Dr. Robertson speaks of. Descendants of the enslaved Africans on the Clotilda should receive some form of reparation. In May of 2019, Search Inc. prepared a report entitled, “Archaeological Investigations of 1Ba704” for the Alabama Historical Commission summarizing their findings from the discovery of Clotilda. The investigative report lays out the case for how the U.S. government turned a blind eye to the Meahers’, Foster’s and all parties involved. It also draws the conclusion that “US government officials were perhaps less than diligent in seeking to find the Clotilda or the people brought aboard it against their will…” Those US officials involved in the search were local prominent businessmen, political leaders, slave owners and the earnestness of the search was considered a joke. The lack of oversight by the U.S. government and their officials should not be overlooked. Fifty years after the abolishment of the slave trade, with US warships patrolling the coast of Africa, Foster was successful at the illegal importation of Africans.
Slavery is America’s original sin. The discovery of Clotilda and the findings highlighted in the Search Inc. report call for congress to investigate the role of the federal and state governments in aiding this crime making the story of the 110 a solid case study for reparations.