The Slave Schooner Clotilda: Hidden but Not Forgotten

Monday, 4 November | 7:30 – 8:30 PM | Mobile Convention Center

In 1860, the Mobile-built schooner Clotilda entered the Mobile River with 109 enslaved persons on the last known voyage of a slave ship to bring people into the United States in violation of laws banning the slave trade – but not slavery.  It was then burned and sunk, but never were it and what had happened forgotten. The June 2019 announcement of the discovery and identification of the wreck off Mobile’s Twelvemile Island has again focused attention not only on the story of the schooner.  It also focused on the people brought to Alabama on Clotilda, and of Africatown, now part of Mobile, home to descendants of some of the schooner’s unwilling captives who when freedom came, established the community in the aftermath of the Civil War. The wreck lies in a graveyard of ships that were purposely scuttled or abandoned in a backwater of the Mobile River. This is the story of the research, science and forensic archaeology used to identify the wreck of Clotilda, a nationally-significant archaeological site now protected by the Alabama Historical Commission for the people of Alabama.

Dr. James P. Delgado’s career spans nearly five decades of investigating the past and sharing discovery and history with a global audience.  Archaeologist, historian, journalist, educator, museum director, television host and government official, his professional journey has kept a focus on the past, especially our seafaring history.  Passionately dedicated to exploration, for the past decade he has increasingly focused on deep ocean exploration, new technologies for reaching not only the deep but a worldwide audience through the use of robotic vehicles, satellites and the Internet to bring the public along with him as he explores the world miles below the surface of the ocean.

Dr. Delgado currently serves as the Senior Vice President of SEARCH, Inc., the nation’s largest company devoted to archaeology, historic preservation and museum services, working throughout the United States and globally.  He remains active in field work, most recently leading a National Geographic- supported project to locate and identify the wreck of Clotilda, the last ship known to have brought enslaved persons to the United States on the eve of the Civil War.  The wreck was identified in June 2019 in the Mobile River, where it had been burned and scuttled in July 1860 at the conclusion of its notorious voyage.