Family of financier of last U.S. slave ship breaks silence

Oct 28, 2022, 1:23 PM | Updated: 1:58 pm
FILE - Traffic passes a mural of the slave ship Clotilda along Africatown Boulevard, in Mobile, Ala...

FILE - Traffic passes a mural of the slave ship Clotilda along Africatown Boulevard, in Mobile, Ala., May 30, 2019. Republican Tommy Tuberville told people Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at an election rally in Nevada that Democrats support reparations for the descendants of enslaved people because "they think the people that do the crime are owed that." His remarks cut deeply for some, especially in and around Africatown, a community in Mobile, Alabama, that was founded by descendants of Africans smuggled in 1860 to the United States aboard a schooner called the Clotilda. (AP Photo/Kevin McGill, File)

(AP Photo/Kevin McGill, File)

Descendants of the Alabama steamship owner responsible for illegally bringing 110 African captives to America aboard the last U.S. slave ship have ended generations of public silence, calling his actions more than 160 years ago “evil and unforgivable.”

In a statement released to NBC News, members of Timothy Meaher’s family — which is still prominent around Mobile, Alabama — said that what Meaher did on the eve of the Civil War “had consequences that have impacted generations of people.”

“Our family has been silent for too long on this matter. However, we are hopeful that we — the current generation of the Meaher family — can start a new chapter,” said the statement. Two members of the Meaher family didn’t respond to messages seeking additional comment Friday.

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, the production company of Barack and Michelle Obama.

The Meaher family has started meeting with leaders of the community in around around Africatown, the community begun by the Africans in north Mobile after they were released from slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1865, the statement said.

Darron Patterson, a descendant of Clotilda captive Pollee Allen, said he met twice last month with a Meaher family member who contacted him through an intermediary. The discussions were cordial but didn’t delve deeply into 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 begin there.”

Patterson was president of the Clotilda Descendants Association at the time. The current president, Jeremy Ellis, said the organization had been in contact with the Meaher family by 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 ship known to bring captives to the American South from Africa for enslavement. Decades after Congress outlawed the international slave trade, the Clotilda sailed from Mobile on a trip funded by Timothy Meaher, whose descendants still own millions of dollars worth of real estate around the city. A state park in Mobile Bay bears the family’s name.

The Clotilda’s captain took his human cargo off the ship in Mobile and set fire to the vessel to hide evidence of the journey. The people, all from West Africa, were enslaved.

Remains of the ship were discovered mostly intact on the muddy river bottom about four years ago, and researchers are still trying to determine the best way to preserve what’s left of the wreck, which many in Africatown hope will become part of a resurgence of their community.

The statement said Meaher family members “believe that the story of Africatown is an important part of history 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,” it 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 to paper companies responsible for pollution around Africatown, Ellis said.

While some members of the Africatown community have advocated for reparations for Clotilda descendants, the family’s statement made no mention of that topic. The fact that the family has started a conversation with slave descendants could be a lesson to other families whose ancestors were involved in the slave trade, Patterson said.

“I hope that what the Meaher family is showing here rubs off on the families of other enslavers,” he said.

___

Reeves is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct...
Associated Press

Meta oversight board urges changes to VIP moderation system

LONDON (AP) — Facebook parent Meta’s quasi-independent oversight board said Tuesday that an internal system that exempted high-profile users, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, from some or all of its content moderation rules needs a major overhaul. The report by the Oversight Board, which was more than a year in the making, said the […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Pope tightens oversight of Vatican-linked foundations

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Tuesday tightened control and oversight over Vatican-based foundations and associations in his latest effort to impose international standards of accounting and governance on Vatican offices and affiliated entities. A new law aims to bring the Holy See into further compliance with recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Moneyval […]
7 hours ago
FILE -  Kirstie Alley attends the premiere of HBO's "Girls" on Jan. 5, 2015, in New York.  Alley, a...
Associated Press

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ star, dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV megahit "Cheers" and in the "Look Who's Talking" films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday. She was 71.
7 hours ago
FILE - A student visits a sensory room at Williams Elementary School, on Nov. 3, 2021, in Topeka, K...
Associated Press

Many kids are struggling. Is special education the answer?

The COVID-19 pandemic sent Heidi Whitney’s daughter into a tailspin. Suddenly the San Diego middle schooler was sleeping all day and awake all night. When in-person classes resumed, she was so anxious at times that she begged to come home early, telling the nurse her stomach hurt. Whitney tried to keep her daughter in class. […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: How credit can beat buy now, pay later

At first glance, a “buy now, pay later” plan’s promise of no interest or upfront fees can seem more appealing than a credit card’s terms. Dividing a transaction into, say, a pay-in-four installment plan sounds straightforward and manageable. Unlike credit cards, though, these plans lack certain consumer protections and are sometimes unpredictable. In this way, […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Then Economic revitalization minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura speaks during a press conference ...
Associated Press

Japan, Belgium to cooperate in chip production, development

TOKYO (AP) — A newly founded Japanese semiconductor company aiming to revive Japan’s chip industry will collaborate with a Belgian research organization in research and development of next-generation chips for production in Japan. Economy and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Tuesday that the new company, Rapidus, which was launched last month by eight corporate […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Family of financier of last U.S. slave ship breaks silence