Clio Logo
Driving Tour of African American History in Mobile Alabama
Item 15 of 16
This marker serves to remind citizens of Mobile of the history of slavery in the city. Plantations in mobile had slaves from roughly 1721 up to the Civil War and even imported more kidnapped Africans just before war broke out. In an 1860 census it was reported that 435,080 slaves lived in Mobile. The history of slavery in Mobile is horrific, this marker serves as a testament to the people who overcame this struggle and to those who died in bondage.

  • Marker
  • Marker
  • A drawing of slaves aboard the Africane.
  • Cudjoe Lewis, the last living person from the slave ship Clotilde.
The economy of Mobile from the late 1700s to the civil war was almost entirely dependent on slave labor.  This is because Mobile was one of many cities in which "cotton was king."  On average, plantation owners in this area had between 10-20 slaves, but many larger plantations had over fifty slaves.

This began in Mobile in 1721 with the slave ship The Africane.  This ship carried 240 kidnapped persons from Guinea and horrifyingly arrived with only 120 left alive.  The first horror Africans experienced in coming to America was indeed the journey which was dangerous, unsanitary, and cruel.  Generally slave ships would first go to the Caribbean where slaves would be "seasoned."  This process involved being even more cruel to slaves than they may later experience.  Slavers tried to break Africans of their free will while forcing them to do back breaking labor.  The majority of slave insurrections happened while being put on slave ships, on the journey to the Americas, and in the Carribbean. There are actually no documented cases of insurrections in Mobile and only one documented in all of Alabama, but of course historical records on slavery are imperfect.   

Mobile's history of slavery is particularly interesting because it lasted for so long.  The last slave ship to carry Africans to the United States landed in Mobile Bay.  The Clotilde transported 116 Prisoners of War and kidnapped persons from Dahomey as slaves to Alabama in 1859.  Supposedly Captain Timothy Meaher undertook this venture on a bet that he could sneak slaves in to the bay under federal supervision.  The U.S. government had outlawed the import of slaves from outside the nation for several decades, though selling slaves between states and of course owning slaves was still legal.  Meaher succeeded, but lost the 30 slaves he kept from the Clotilde only a few years later with the emancipation following the Civil War.  These Africans have taught historians a great deal about the history of the slave trade because they actually managed to preserve a great deal of their home culture in the community they formed and named Africatown.  

Though the history of slavery in Mobile is of course tragic, the perseverance of those enslaved through emancipation, reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights struggle, and African American's continued fight for equality today is an awe inspiring historical fact to be admired by all.