is just another spot on the map if you are not aware of its history.
It is hard to say where its boundaries are by just looking at it. I
have gone through the
area for years without giving it a second thought until I began to actually
do a little research on it.
AfricaTown is also know as Africatown and Africa Town. It lies just three miles north of Mobile, Alabama, along
the Gulf Coast where the last cargo of Africans landed in 1860. Their
landing marked the last recorded attempt to import Africans to the
United States for the purpose of slavery. These Tarkbar people
created their own tribal community and retained their customs and
language following the American Civil War.
AfricaTown had its
beginnings in a plan by some wealthy Mobile brothers and their friends
to see if they could evade the law and import slaves. They bet each
other they could elude federal authorities. Timothy Meaher, a
shipbuilder and landowner; his brother Byrnes Meaher, John Dabey and
others invested money to hire a crew and captain for one of Meaher's
ships to go to Africa and bring back laborers for slaves.
They used Timothy
Meaher's ship Clotilde under Captain William
sailed in 1860 from Ghana, West Africa for its final destination of
Mobile, more than half a century after the slave trade had been
outlawed. Over 100 Africans were aboard, having been sold into bondage
by the King of Dahomey.
Dahomey warriors raided a Tarkbar village near the city of
Tamale in Ghana, and took the survivors to Whydah, now Benin, where
they were put up for sale. The captured tribesmen were sold for $100
each to William Foster, captain of the Clotilde.
In July 1860, the
Clotilde entered Mobile Bay and approached the port of Mobile. Captain
Foster loaded the slaves onto a riverboat and sent them ashore; he
then set fire to the Clotilde to hide the evidence of the crime. The
Africans were distributed among the parties who had invested in the
venture. Federal authorities learned of this illegal activity and
prosecuted Meaher and his partners. The 1861 federal court case of US
v. Byrnes Meaher, Timothy Meaher and John Dabey did
enough evidence to convict Meaher. The case was dismissed. The
start of the American
Civil War was believed to have been important in the government's
dropping the case.
Africans had been taken to Magazine Point, the property owned by
Timothy Meaher north of Mobile. As the government was investigating
the illegal importation, the Africans were left on their own to
survive. This was the site that would become AfricaTown. Among the
Africans was a man named Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis, who was the last
survivor of the original group, living until 1935. The photo to the
right is of Cudjoe Lewis in his cabin.
The group built shelters of
whatever they found growing in the Alabama
forests, and adapted their hunting to the rich game they found in the
area. After the Civil War and Emancipation, they were joined by a number of their
tribesmen. A man who became known as Charlie Poteet was their chief
and they were aided by their medicine man Jabez. In time they formed a
self-governing society. They spoke their native language and
carried on their tribal traditions into the 1950s.
original group of settlers and their descendants dwindled, as people
moved to other areas. Their children went to public schools and
Remaining members would gather on Sundays after church to discuss the
Of the remaining people, Cudjoe
Lewis was the best known and gave interviews to the many writers who
focused their work on Africa Town during the
early 1900s. Up until World War II, AfricaTown remained a distinct
community. Eventually, Prichard, a suburb of Mobile, grew to encompass
descendants and friends formed the AfricaTown Community Mobilization
Project to seek recognition of an AfricaTown Historical District and
encourage the restoration and development of the townsite.
On February 6, 2011 the African
American Heritage Trail held a ceremony at the Union Baptist Church to
celebrate the unveiling of the African American Heritage Trail
Marker at the Old Plateau Cemetery (across the street from church).
This marker honors the lives of the many slaves brought to the area
during those dark times.
Three member of Alabama's
Chapter 1 of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers also participated
in the event. These soldiers honored Emperor Green, a Buffalo Soldier buried
cemetery. Buffalo Soldiers played an important role in the military.
We have documented some information in our Fort Huachuca, Arizona and
Fort Douglas, Utah issues.
One of the routes
to AfricaTown is over the Mobile River using the Cochrane-AfricaTown
Bridge. The bridge is a cable-stayed bridge carrying mainline US 90 and
Truck Route US 98 across the Mobile River in Mobile, Alabama. It was
named for the Cochrane Bridge, which it replaced, and for the former
community of Africa Town, which once stood on the western approach to
the bridge. Volkert & Associates, Inc. design for the bridge earned it
the Outstanding Engineering Achievement in the U.S.A. Award from the
National Society of Professional Engineers and the Award of Excellence
in Highway Design from the Federal Highway Administration, both in
1992. It is the only cable-stayed bridge in the state of Alabama. The
bridge was damaged on August 29, 2005 when an oil platform, the PSS Chemul, broke free from drydock and was wedged under the bridge by