For the web: Descendants of the Alabama steamer owner responsible for illegally bringing 110 African captives to America aboard the last American slave ship have ended generations of public silence, calling his actions a more than 160 years ago of “bad and unforgivable”.
In a statement on NBC News, family members of Timothy Meaher — who is still prominent around Mobile, Alabama — said what Meaher did on the eve of the Civil War “had consequences that impacted generations of people.”
“Our family has been silent about this for far too long. However, we hope that we, the current generation of the Meaher family, can start a new chapter,” the statement read. On Friday, two members of the Meaher family did not respond to messages seeking additional comment.
The statement came amid the release of “Descendant,” a new documentary about the people who were brought to the United States aboard the slave ship Clotilda and their families. The film was acquired by Netflix and Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company.
The Meaher family began meeting with community leaders in and around Africatown, the community created by Africans in northern Mobile after being freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1865, according to the communicated.
Darron Patterson, a descendant of Clotilda captive Pollee Allen, said he met twice in the past month with a member of the Meaher family who contacted him through an intermediary. Discussions were cordial but did not delve into the details of their shared history, he said.
“Our conversations were just about who we are as people,” he said. “I think it’s important that we start there.”
Patterson was then president of the Clotilda Descendants Association. Current president Jeremy Ellis said the organization has been in contact with the Meaher family via email since the NBC story aired on Sunday today, and members hoped for face-to-face talks. .
“I am interested in learning and seeking answers from the Meaher family about historical documents, artifacts and oral histories that can bring clarity to descendants,” Ellis said.
The Clotilda, a wooden schooner, was the last known vessel to bring captives from South Africa from the United States for enslavement. Decades after Congress banned the international slave trade, the Clotilda left Mobile on a trip funded by Timothy Meaher, whose descendants still own millions of dollars in real estate in the city. A state park in Mobile Bay is named after the family.
The captain of the Clotilda removed his human cargo from the ship in Mobile and set the ship on fire to hide evidence of the voyage. The people, all from West Africa, were enslaved.
The remains of the ship were discovered mostly intact at the muddy bottom of the river about four years ago, and researchers are still trying to determine the best way to preserve what remains of the wreckage, which many in Africatown hope she will be part of a resurgence in their community. .
The statement said members of the Meaher family “believe that the history of Africatown is an important part of the story that needs to be told.”
“Our goal is to listen and learn, and our hope is that these conversations can help guide the actions our family takes as we work to be better partners in the community,” he said.
The statement “falls short” because it fails to mention two other Meaher brothers who conspired with Timothy Meaher and the family’s decision to lease land from pollution-causing paper companies around Africatown, Ellis said.
While some members of the Africatown community have pleaded for reparations for Clotilda’s descendants, the family statement makes no mention of this. The fact that the family struck up a conversation with descendants of slaves could be a lesson for other families whose ancestors were involved in the slave trade, Patterson said.
“I hope what the Meaher family shows here rubs off on the families of other slavers,” he said.