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Whispers from the Water: Ancestral Memories from the Clotilda
April 29, 2023 @ 1:30 pm - 5:00 pm
On April 29, 2022, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Historic Sotterley are partnering to present a screening of the powerful 2022 Netflix film, “Descendant,” to our community. The screening will be followed by a panel that will discuss the film, how it showcases previously undiscovered historical findings, as well as the long-lasting negative economic, environmental and social impacts the slave trade continues to have on Africatown and our nation.
Set in the small Alabama community of Africatown, the documentary follows the descendants of the survivors of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to transport human beings as cargo from Africa to America. On July 9, 1860, more than 100 captive Africans were illicitly brought to the shores of Mobile, Alabama, under cover of darkness. The international slave trade had been made illegal in the US in 1808, but human trafficker Timothy Meaher made a bet that he could get around the law with his ship. After the illegal voyage, the ship was burned and scuttled in Mobile Cay in an attempt to destroy the evidence. Today, the residents of Africatown, just north of Mobile, count the Clotilda survivors among their ancestors. Uncovering the truth about the Clotilda, which was a centuries-old open secret, was pursued by marine archaeologists to confirm the ship’s existence and bring its stories to the surface.
The panel will feature Jocelyn Davis, a direct descendant of Clotilda survivor Charlie Lewis and lifelong resident of Africatown, as well as Kamau Sadiki who was featured in the documentary for his work as a member of the dive team Divers with a Purpose and who is the President of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers that identified the Clotilda. Joining the panel will be Dr. Susan Langley, the Maryland State Underwater Archaeologist and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Dr. Liza Gijanto, Associate Professor of Anthropology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Kelsy Bush, Historic Sotterley Descendant and Board Member as well as the Community Affairs Liaison of St. Mary’s College of Maryland; and Gwen Bankins, Historic Sotterley Descendant and Secretary of the Board of Trustees.
The event will be held in the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Nancy R. & Norton T. Dodge Performing Arts Center, 47855 College Dr., St. Mary’s City, MD with doors opening at 1:00 pm. The film begins at 1:30 pm, followed by an intermission and then the panel discussion approximately at 3:45 p.m. This event is being held free of charge to our community, though tickets are required.
Photo of Kamau Sadiki courtesy of Wayne Lawrence.