The transatlantic slave trade was a part of the global slave trade that transported more than 10 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th century until the early 19th century. Although the slave trade was banned under U.S. law after 1807, the last-know shipment of Africans into the Mobile area in the United States came in 1860 on the Clotilda. When slavery was abolished in the United States, the freed Africans who arrived on the Clotilda could not afford to return to Africa, so they created their own small piece of Africa in Alabama, which they named Africatown.

 

In this unit, students learn about the experience of one of these enslaved persons, Cudjo Lewis, whose words were captured by author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston in the book Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo." They investigate the recent discovery of the remains of the Clotilda at the bottom of Mobile Bay, and learn what it takes to authenticate barely recognizable artifacts. Students listen to testimonies of the descendants of those who arrived on the Clotilda and discover how important the preservation of cultural heritage is to their lives today. Finally, students take on the role of a historian, making decisions on how and where the artifacts should be displayed. They develop an exhibit sketch, an exhibit brochure, and a written pitch to the Alabama Historical Commission proposing their plan for a future exhibit. 

 

At the culmination of the unit, students are encouraged to continue their exploration of the power history can have on a community. They could develop a personal heritage museum at their own school that would highlight individual students’ ancestry with photos and artifacts. They could also research historical information about their own community and plan and execute an "Our Community: Past and Present Museum Night" for school families and the community at large.

 

Use this unit at a glance to explore a brief outline of the materials included in this resource.

 

Use this pedagogical support to inform your teaching of this project-based learning unit.

 

Unit Driving Question: How do artifacts and their preservation impact communities?

3 hrs 20 mins

Students are introduced to Cudjo Lewis, one of the last survivors of the illegal slave ship, the Clotilda, and consider why his story is important to his descendants and others. Then, students investigate details about the Clotilda that led archaeologists to a positive identification. Finally, students participate in a Socratic seminar to synthesize their learning and connect it to their lives. This lesson is part of the Sunken Slave Ship unit.

2 hrs 40 mins

Students learn about Alabama’s connection to Benin and the varied perspectives of those involved in the slave trade. Students explore sources that illustrate the transfer of cultural traditions and identify ways in which Africatown has changed over time. Finally, students consider how a museum exhibit showcasing the Clotilda could impact the community’s pride and economy. This lesson is part of the Sunken Slave Ship unit.

2 hrs 30 mins

Students analyze the differences between permanent and traveling exhibits and decide which type of exhibit would be appropriate for the Clotilda artifacts. Students develop a detailed, annotated sketch that visually represents a proposed exhibit for the Clotilda and an accompanying brochure before developing a pitch to present to the Alabama Historical Commission. This lesson is part of the Sunken Slave Ship unit.

Noun

ending or wiping out of something, usually referring to the ending of slavery.

African slave trade
Noun

(1500-1888) exchange of goods and services from Europe and the Americas in exchange for human beings from Africa. Also called the transatlantic slave trade.

Africatown
Noun

small community located about three miles north of Mobile, Alabama, that was founded by previously enslaved people, many of whom were originally brought to the United States on the Clotilda, the last-known slave ship, after the prohibition of the import of enslaved people.

ancestor
Noun

organism from whom one is descended.

anthropologist
Noun

person who studies cultures and characteristics of communities and civilizations.

archaeological
Adjective

having to do with the study of ancient people and cultures.

Noun

study of human history, based on material remains.

Noun

material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.

authentic
Adjective

real or genuine.

ban
Verb

to prohibit or not allow.

captive
Adjective

captured or enslaved.

cohesive
Adjective

unified or sticking together.

community
Noun

social group whose members share common heritage, interests, or culture.

constructive feedback
Noun

tool to enhance the teaching and learning process; highlighting strengths and achievements as well as areas for improvement.

Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

descendant
Noun

children, grandchildren, and other offspring.

dialect
Noun

distinct variation of a language, usually marked by accents and grammar.

disparity
Noun

difference or inequality.

enslaved person
Noun

person who is owned by another person or group of people.

ethnography
Noun

scientific study of individual cultures and customs, often associated with anthropology.

exhibit
Noun

display, often in a museum.

export
Noun

good or service traded to another area.

gallery
Noun

area used to display groups of material organized by type.

heritage
Noun

cultural or family background.

human trafficking
Noun

trade of people for forced labor or sexual exploitation.

import
Noun

good traded from another area.

in situ preservation
Noun

protecting an archaeological asset while maintaining its original location.

industrialization
Noun

growth of machine production and factories.

international
Adjective

having to do with more than one country.

legacy
Noun

material, ideas, or history passed down or communicated by a person or community from the past.

local
Adjective

having to do with the area around a specific place.

mast
Noun

tall, pole-like structure rising above the top of a ship, where sails and other rigging are held.

memorial
adjective, noun

something designed or written to preserve the memory of an event or person.

mores
Noun

moral characteristics and customs of a community.

national
Adjective

having to do with the government or people of a country.

nautical archaeology
Noun

study of ancient ship construction and use.

perspective
Noun

point of view or way of looking at a situation.

pitch
Verb

present an idea or information in such a way as to gain support from one’s audience, usually in the form of a short speech or presentation, which is referred to by the same word (pitch, noun).

poverty
Noun

status of having very little money or material goods.

Noun

protection from use.

preserve
Verb

to maintain and keep safe from damage.

provenance
Noun

origin or source of an object, work of art, or literature, the history of ownership of a valued object, work of art, or literature.

remnant
Noun

something that is left over.

reparation
Noun

payment of damages done.

restore
Verb

to return something to its former status or quality.

schooner
Noun

large sailing vessel with at least two equal-sized masts.

scuttled
Verb

cut a hole through the bottom, deck, or side of a ship.

self-sufficient
Adjective

able to support all of one's basic needs without assistance.

sketch map
Noun

rough, hand-drawn representation of spatial information.

slavery
Noun

process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

trade
Noun

buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

vessel
Noun

craft for traveling on water, usually larger than a rowboat or skiff.

voyage
Noun

long journey or trip.