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Africatown Heritage House gets more than $1.3M in funding


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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — Ever since journalist Ben Raines found the wreckage of America’s last slave ship in 2019, local leaders have been debating the best way to preserve the history.

On Monday, the Mobile County Commission took a major step, approving more than $1.3 million for an interpretative center and garden. The Africatown Heritage House will house a $250,000 exhibit, funded by the city of Mobile, that will include artifacts from the Clotilda preserved in a water tank.

“Its initial purpose is to serve as a venue for an exhibit that will include artifacts from the wreckage of the Clotilda,” Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood told FOX10 News. “The exhibit will tell the entire Africatown story. But it’ll be unique in that this will be the first opportunity for the public to really be able to see those artifacts.”

The Clotilda in 1859 sailed up Mobile Bay with a cargo of more than 100 enslaved Africans. At the time, the importation of slaves had been banned in the United States for five decades. The stunt reportedly resulted from a bet.

The descendants of those slaves founded the Africatown community just north of Mobile. At one time, it was one of the largest self-governing black communities in the country.

The Heritage House will be located behind the Hope Recreation Center. Ludgood said she expects work to begin within a month and finish by July.

Ludgood, who shepherded this project though the County Commission, said she excited about residents of this community having a chance to tell this story “in their own voices.”

Ludgood said she does not know how many visitors to expect.

“We don’t have any idea,” she said. “We just, we know that there is a lot of pent-up interest in coming into Africatown and there being something there for visitors to see.”

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