Local reporter may have discovered wreck of last US slave ship

(IMG:WPMI) Local reporter may have discovered wreck of last U.S. slave ship

Archeologists say a local journalist may have located the wreckage of the Clotilda, a ship that carried the last known illegal shipment of slaves to America.

Those held captive on that ship later formed Africatown, just north of downtown Mobile. What's left of the burned ship lies in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Tuesday, we caught up with reporter Ben Raines, who made the discovery earlier this month. He shared with us the video of his find that's only accessible by boat.

It was Jan. 2 when Raines hopped in a boat and pulled up to an island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, just north of Mobile.

On this day, there was an extremely low tide brought on by a winter storm that blasted the East Coast.

"It was 25 degrees, it was pretty miserable. Ice around the boat. But the water was so low that I was able to see it," said Raines.

After talking with people in the community and going through historical records, he was able to use the low tide to locate what could be the Clotilda, the last ship to bring slaves to the U.S. 50 years after importing slaves was made illegal. The Clotilda brought more than 100 Africans to the Mobile area in 1859.

"Right now, it's a circumstantial case, but it's a really good one," said Raines.

Archeologists are now tasked with developing a plan to explore the unseen and find out for sure if this is indeed the slave ship.

"The shipwright thinks there's 10 more feet of ship down below the mud because a ship will only burn down to water line. So we may have the pens where the slaves were held," said Raines.

Robert Battles is the former director of the Africatown Welcome Center, a town created by those held captive on the Clotilda.

"Our history is our greatest asset," said Battles.

He was delighted to hear of a possible discovery with such historical significance.

"Africatown, what they did was in the midst of Jim Crow, segregation, they built a free community run by Africans, controlled by Africans," said Battles.

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