The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade

The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade cover

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.

Dr. Hannah Durkin is a historian specializing in transatlantic slavery and African diasporic art and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Nottingham and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from Leeds Trinity University. She has taught at Nottingham and Newcastle universities, and recently served as a Guest Researcher at Linnaeus University in Sweden. She is an advisor to the History Museum of Mobile, which is working to memorialize the Clotilda survivors, and was the keynote speaker at Africatown’s 2021 Spirit of Our Ancestors Festival founded by the Clotilda Descendants Association. She is the recipient of more than a dozen academic prizes, including a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship. She lives in the southeast of England.