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America's last slave ship could provide a reason for reparations



Alabama steam ship owner Timothy Meaher financed the last slave ship to transport African prisoners to the United States and came out of the civil war as a rich man.

His descendants of million-dollar land are still part of Mobile Upper Crust of the Society.

The humans enslaved by Meaher, however, emerged from the war with freedom, but with little else. Census forms documenting Meaher's post-war wealth list them as laborers, housewives and peasants of no value. Many of her descendants are workers today.

Now, the story of Meaher and the slave ship Clotilda could be one of the clearer cases of reparation for slavery with identifiable perpetrators and victims.

The formal attempt to make amends has begun. Since the beginning of this year, the topic has quietly bubbled up among church members when experts said they found the wreck of Clotilda in muddy waters near Mobile. Some say that too many years have passed for reparations; others say the discovery of the ship makes the timing perfect.

Many Clotilda offspring say the reconciliation with the Meahers would be enough, perhaps an opportunity to discuss an intertwined history. Others hope that the family will help with ambitious plans to turn an oppressed community into a tourist attraction. Some want cash; Some do not want anything.

Restructuring debates are usually about reparation for the multitude of descendants of some 4 million blacks who were enslaved in the United States. But if Congress is considering setting up a Reparations Study Commission, what could a single instance of reparations look like in the city when the nation's Atlantic slave trade was finally ended? for sure. But she is unhappy about the lack of justice and what many consider the deafening silence of the Meaher family.

"I never knew they were only involved in what happened," said Frazier, 68.

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In Mobile, as in many southern communities, descendants of slave owners and enslaved people often neighbors, albeit under very different circumstances.

Originally from Maine, Meaher moved south and became rich with steamboats and a sawmill. He bought the schooner Clotilda for a reported $ 35,000 and financed a slavery expedition to West Africa a year before the war began.

The international slave trade was already banned, but Meaher bet he could import slaves against the ban. Arrested after the vessel arrived with about 110 prisoners and was sunk in Mobile in 1860, he was released by a judge from charges, according to "Dreams of Africa in Alabama," a book by Sylviane A. Diouf.

Meaher refused to provide land to the liberated Africans after the war, who then scraped up money to acquire property. They founded a community called "Africatown USA," which preserved some of the West African ways of the once-enslaved people. The remains still exist.

Meaher listed assets, including $ 20,000 in land and personal property at the 1870 census. A newspaper article states that his son Augustine was a multi-millionaire in 1905.

According to the 2012 court, the Meaher family owned assets of $ 35 million, including 22,000 acres of land, timber, rental income, and cash. Tax records show that Meaher's relatives are still large landowners and have a fortune of $ 20 million.

One of Timothy Meaher's granddaughters was celebrated in 2007 as the white queen of the city's segregating carnival, descendant of one of the Clotilda Africans.

In the area around Mobile, Meaher State Park and Meaher Avenue are near Africatown. A red concrete marker bearing the name of the family stands in the Tensaw delta near the site where Clotilda's remains were found last year.

There is no consensus on what redress might be for Clotilda offspring.

Joycelyn Davis, who co-organized the Clotilda Descendants Association, said the conversation was a good start. "If we could just sit down and talk, that would be a powerful thing," she said.

Bill Green, a descendant of Clotilda's captive Ossa Keeby, said people need more than talking. He called reparations an "excellent idea." Unless they are personal payments to Clotilda offspring, they may include contributions to a group that helps offspring, perhaps to revive the parks of Africatown, a memorial, a Clotilda replica, homes, and businesses.

"I think it would be fair for them to do this, I think we are in an excellent position for our court system to decide," Green said from Texas.

Diouf, who has studied Clotilda and Clotilda closely Africatown said the Meaher clan had inherited the wealth of generations while Timothy Meaher's prisoners passed by.

"There was nothing and there is still nothing," she said.

Founded in 2015, the National African American Reparations Commission seeks an apology for slavery plus money for business development, health, education, heritage preservation, housing, criminal justice reform and more.

The Meahers do not say what they want to do and have not made a public comment on Clotilda's discovery.

"The Meahers will not show up, especially now that the Clotilda has been found," said Eric Finley, who conducts an African-American heritage tour in Mobile.

An attorney for The Family of Augustine Meaher III, a distant grandson of Timothy Meaher, declined to speak with The Associated Press. Other family members or their lawyers have not returned any messages.

There is evidence that the Meaher family knew the location of Clotilda before researchers found it. An investigative report released by the Alabama Historical Commission quoted historian John Sledge as saying that one of the Meahers had told him that family members had blown up the wreck twice in the 1950s to extract valuable copper from the hull.

In an interview, Sledge declined to say where he heard the story. "But I really wonder how much someone knew," he said.

That's the big question for Ted Keeby, another descendant of Clotilda's captive Ossa Keeby: who knew what? He wants to know more about the meahers and the lives of the people that Timothy Meaher has enslaved.

"I have no feelings for what happened, it's part of the story, but I'd like to meet them, they're part of our story," he said.


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