The Clotilda Legacy: From Slave Ship to Unity, Revitalization, and Hope with Darron Patterson

February 20, 2022

Black History on the American Shoreline.

On this episode, hosts Peter Ravella and Tyler Buckingham talk to Darron Patterson, the president of the Clotilda Descendants Association. Darron, himself a descendant of one the survivors of the last slave ship to import enslaved Africans to the United States, talks about the history of the Clotilda. The story of how Patterson's relative arrived in America aboard an illegal slaver started as a bet. 52 years after the US banned the importation of enslaved people, in 1860, a wealthy Alabama business owner named Timothy Meaher wagered that he could orchestrate for a haul of kidnapped Africans to sail under the noses of federal officers and evade capture. With the assistance of Captain William Foster at the helm of an 80ft, two-mast schooner, and following a grueling six-week transatlantic passage, he succeeded. The ship sneaked into Mobile Bay on July 9th under a veil of darkness. To conceal evidence of the crime, the distinctive-looking schooner – made from white oak frames and southern yellow pine planking – was set ablaze and scuttled to the depths of the swampy Mobile River. In 2019 the charred hull of the Clotilda was officially discovered, reigniting interest and intrigue into its fascinating story and the legacy of those enslaved who came to America on board.

Darron Patterson, president of the Clotilda Descendants Association, pauses to speak to the media and folks roaming around the construction site of the future Africatown Heritage House.
This image of the submerged ruins of the slave ship Clotilda was produced by continual sidescan sonar in March 2020 and released by the Alabama Historical Commission. Newer scans reveal additional detail about the condition of the hull.

Show Transcription
This transcription was generated by a computer. Please excuse any errors.
Peter Ravella & Tyler Buckingham

Peter and Tyler joined forces in 2015 and from the first meeting began discussing a project that would become Coastal News Today and the American Shoreline Podcast Network. At the time, Peter and Tyler were coastal consultants for Pete’s firm, PAR Consulting, LLC. In that role, they worked with coastal communities in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, engaged in grant writing, coastal project development, shoreline erosion and land use planning, permitting, and financial planning for communities undertaking big beach restoration projects. Between and among their consulting tasks, they kept talking and kept building the idea of CNT & ASPN. In almost every arena they worked, public engagement played a central role. They spent thousands of hours talking with coastal stakeholders, like business owners, hotel operators, condo managers, watermen, property owners, enviros, surfers, and fishermen. They dived deep into the value, meaning, and responsibility for the American shoreline, segment-by-segment. Common threads emerged, themes were revealed, differences uncovered. There was a big conversation going on along the American shoreline! But, no place to have it. That's where CNT and ASPN were born.