Four professors from the University of South Alabama and Spring Hill College are teaming to make a documentary about the last known slave ship to come to America from Africa. The "Clotilda" illegally carried 110 slaves to Mobile County around 1859.
The professors say this story was one that's been buried and they want to tell it to the world. They said it's a story that comes from the community and still lives in it today.
"We want to be able to visually represent a story that is very important to the history here in Mobile," said Dr. Joel Lewis Billingsley, Associate Professor at USA and producer of the documentary. "We call it project 110. We are working on a historical documentary on the 110 Africans brought here on the slave ship called Clotilda."
The official title of the documentary is "110: The Last Enslaved Africans Brought to America." The professors said most of the information will come from descendants of those slaves.
"Getting oral histories. Interviewing on camera, descendants of some of the survivors of the Clotilda," said Ryan Noble, Assistant Professor at Spring Hill College and Director of the documentary.
It begins in Africa, sails across the Atlantic and lands here in Mobile County. These four professors said it's a narrative that's always been around but simply lacked exposure.
"That journey of survival and persistence is such an important story. That is the American story, right, its that survival and that persistence of the African American community as we know it now," explained Noble.
"We want to hear what's been passed down to them and what's been a part of that family and their traditions and their way of life and how this story has impacted over time and over generations," added Lewis Billingsley
The project will include a documentary film, an art exhibit, an oral history, a poetry book, and a K-12 curriculum. The group is planning to submit the curriculum to the state to be included in schools. Dr. Pamela Moore, the project's curriculum coordinator and professor at USA, says this is a way to show the significance of Mobile in our nation's history."It's very interesting to develop a product that can go out to schools that talk about things that are local. So often with history, we find out about things that happen in other places. We are excited that we are home to this type of history," said Moore.
Even though the documentary is several months away from being finished, this group says the journey so far has been an eye-opening experience that they can't wait to show the world.
"It's going to have a significant impact on how we view other historical artifacts. When you become aware of the 110, it makes you look at Oakleigh a different way. When you go down Royal Street and you see a marker that says "Slave Market" and now you have a project that puts flesh on them," added Dr. Kern Jackson, Folklorist and Assistant Professor at USA.The group plans to release the documentary early next year. Tune in Thursday night for Part two of this story.
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