The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade
Joining the ranks of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Zora Neale Hurston’s rediscovered classic Barracoon, an immersive and revelatory history of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to land on US soil, told through the stories of its survivors—the last documented survivors of any slave ship—whose lives diverged and intersected in profound ways.
The Clotilda, the last slave ship to land on American soil, docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama, in July 1860—more than half a century after the passage of a federal law banning the importation of captive Africans, and nine months before the beginning of the Civil War. The last of its survivors lived well into the twentieth century. They were the last witnesses to the final act of a terrible and significant period in world history.
In this epic work, Dr. Hannah Durkin tells the stories of the Clotilda’s 110 captives, drawing on her intensive archival, historical, and sociological research. The Survivors of the Clotilda follows their lives from their kidnappings in what is modern-day Nigeria through a terrifying 45-day journey across the Middle Passage; from the subsequent sale of the ship’s 103 surviving children and young people into slavery across Alabama to the dawn of the Civil Rights movement in Selma; from the foundation of an all-Black African Town (later Africatown) in Northern Mobile—an inspiration for writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Zora Neale Hurston—to the foundation of the quilting community of Gee’s Bend—a Black artistic circle whose cultural influence remains enormous.
An astonishing, deeply compelling tapestry of history, biography, and social commentary, The Survivors of the Clotilda is a tour de force that deepens our knowledge and understanding of the Black experience and of America and its tragic past.
The Survivors of the Clotilda includes 30 artworks and photographs.
Praise for The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade
"The Survivors of the Clotilda, a comprehensive account of one of the most important parts of American history, is a triumph." — Booklist (starred review)
"A sweeping history of the survivors of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to land in America....Durkin’s in-depth view is based largely on the survivors’ own words and perspectives (some lived into the 20th century and related their stories to various writers, most notably Zora Neale Hurston), and is woven together with her extensive archival research. It’s a stirring saga of resilience that sheds new light on Black life in postbellum America." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A highly recommended sweeping saga. Based on a rich archive that includes the survivors’ own stories, one of which became the basis for Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon, this title provides a human history of enslaved people and a portrait of the postbellum South." — Library Journal (starred review)
"A welcome history of defiance and survival." — Kirkus Reviews
"In The Survivors of the Clotilda, the historian Hannah Durkin lets the enslaved speak for themselves, and they tell a story not only of unimaginable suffering but also of courage and survival." — Wall Street Journal
"[Durkin] cuts through the myths around this notorious story while keeping a tight focus on the 103 surviving young adults and children, whose lives were forever changed by displacement, family separation and enslavement....This authoritative work will be appreciated by anyone looking for a comprehensive account of one of history’s most infamous moments." — BookPage
"In recent years, British historian Hannah Durkin has made headlines with her discoveries about survivors of the slave ship Clotilda. Now she has delivered a landmark book mapping out not just a handful of such stories, but an entire tragic diaspora....The latest addition to the growing shelf of literature on the Clotilda will be eye-opening even for anyone who has read every preceding work." — AL.com