Family of Financier of Last US Slave Ship Breaks Silence

For the web: Descendants of the Alabama steamboat owner who smuggled 110 African captives to America aboard the last US slave ship have broken generations of public silence, calling his actions “heinous and unforgivable” more than 160 years ago.

In a statement released to NBC News, family members of Timothy Meeher, who is still famous around Mobile, Alabama, said Meeher’s actions before the Civil War “had consequences that affected generations.”

“Our family has been silent on this matter for a long time. However, we – the current generation of the Meaher family – hope that we can begin a new chapter,” the statement read. Two members of Meher’s family did not respond to messages seeking further comment Friday.

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The announcement comes amid the release of Urine, a new documentary about the people and their families brought to the United States aboard the Clotilda slave ship. The film was acquired by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Netflix and Higher Ground.

After Meaher’s family was freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1865, the African-led community north of Mobile began meeting with leaders of Africatown and the surrounding community, the report said.

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Darron Patterson, a descendant of Clotilda inmate Polly Allen, said he met twice in the past month with a member of the Meacher family who contacted him through an intermediary. The discussions were cordial, but did not delve into the details of their shared history, he said.

“Our conversations were just about who we are as people. “I think it’s important that we start there.”

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Patterson was then president of the Clotilde Descendants Association. Current president Jeremy Ellis said the organization has been in contact with Meeher’s family by email since the NBC story aired today and Sunday, and members hoped to speak face-to-face.

“I am interested in learning about and seeking answers from the Meaher family through historical documents, artifacts and oral histories that may bring clarity to descendants,” Ellis said.

A portrait of Timothy Meacher, who organized and financed the last U.S. slave voyage to Africa in 1886 aboard the Clotilda, is shown in this Aug. 26, 2019, photo in Mobile, Alabama.

A portrait of Timothy Meacher, who organized and financed the last U.S. slave voyage to Africa in 1886 aboard the Clotilda, is shown in this Aug. 26, 2019, photo in Mobile, Alabama.

The wooden schooner Clotilda was the last ship to bring captives from Africa to the American South. Decades after Congress outlawed the international slave trade, Clotilda set sail on a voyage sponsored by Timothy Meaher of Mobile, whose descendants still own multimillion-dollar real estate around town. A state park in Mobile Bay bears the family’s name.

The captain of the Clotilda removed the human cargo from the Mobile and set the ship on fire to hide evidence of the voyage. People from West Africa were slaves.

The remains of the ship were found mostly in the muddy riverbed four years ago, and researchers are still trying to figure out the best way to salvage what remains of the wreck, which Africans hope will be part of the rebirth of their community. .

Meaher’s family members “believe the story of Africatown is an important piece of history that needs to be told,” the statement said.

“Our goal is to listen and learn, and our hope is that these conversations will help guide our family’s efforts to be better partners in the community,” it said.

The statement does not mention the decision by the two other Meher brothers and family, who colluded with “short” Timothy Meher, to lease land to the paper companies responsible for the pollution around Africatown, Ellis said.

While some members of the Africatown community have spoken out in favor of reparations for Clotilda’s descendants, the family’s statement did not mention the topic at all. The family’s communication with slave descendants could be a lesson for other families whose ancestors were involved in the slave trade, Patterson said.

“I hope that what the Meecher family is showing here will have an impact on other slave families,” he said.


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