McPherson-Mitchell Lecture to feature the Clotilda slave-ship and the community formed by its survivors, descendants

Published 3:35 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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By Staff Reports

The Troy University Department of History and Philosophy is expanding the annual McPherson-Mitchell Lecture in Southern History into a two-day event focused on the recent archeological discovery of the remains of the Civil War-era illegal slave ship, the Clotilda, and the still-active community of survivors and descendants in Africatown outside of Mobile, Alabama. The events will be held March 6 and 7 and are free and open to the public.

The Monday, March 6 event will feature a screening of “Afrikan by Way of American” and a discussion with Theo M. Moore II, producer and Executive Director of Hiztorical Visions Productions, at 6 p.m. in Claudia Crosby Theater. Moore graduated from TROY in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in history and again in 2016 with a master’s degree in post-secondary education in history.

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A reception will be held on Tuesday, March 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Claudia Crosby Theatre lobby followed by a roundtable discussion at 6 p.m. with Ben Raines, journalist and author of “The Last Slave Ship: The True Story of How Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning;” Jeremy Ellis, president of the Clotilda Descendants Association; Stacye Hathorn, state archeologist for the Alabama Historical Commission; Gen. Walter Givhan of the Alabama Historical Commission and former TROY Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development; and Moore.

The roundtable will include questions and discussion with a moderator as well as an audience Q&A.

Dr. Kathryn Tucker, a lecturer in the history department and event organizer, said they wanted to choose a topic that would appeal to a broad range of people that would also help further educate the community on a topic that’s been gaining more attention over the last few years.

“These topics highlight themes that are universal in American history and society—race, slavery, power, memory, wealth and poverty—but also that are unique, as the Clotilda was the last slave ship to reach the US, and is one of the few slave ships archeologists have ever uncovered,” she said. “We’re bringing together people from different backgrounds who can speak to these significant themes that have built our society today.”

Recent national coverage of these events, including a new Oscar-shortlisted Netflix documentary and a museum created by the Africatown community opening this summer, illustrate the importance of this topic’s ability to provide unique insight into our national and cultural development, Tucker said.

“As important and revelatory as the history of the Clotilda and Africatown is, the community has received little attention until ongoing efforts to find the remains of the Clotilda began garnering national attention. In 2019, journalist Ben Raines uncovered these remains, setting off a new wave of national attention on the ship and the community its survivors built,” she said. “The descendant community has become a significant voice in shaping the narrative around these discoveries and the future of their community, and it’s exciting to me that TROY can be a part of this conversation the whole nation is having.”

Founded in 2000, the McPherson-Mitchell Lecture in Southern History is named in honor of former Troy University History Department faculty members Milton McPherson and Norma Mitchell. Lecturers are historians who conduct research in a variety of subject areas and time periods in Southern history

This event is funded in-part by the Alabama Humanities Alliance and South Arts.