ECW Weekender: Africatown Heritage House Grand Opening!

Readers may be familiar with an article published on the blog about the slave ship, Clotilda, and its voyage on the eve of the Civil War. To review, read part 1 and part 2. The survivors from Clotilda, once emancipated, banded together to construct their own community just outside of Mobile, Alabama called Africatown. They and their descendants have preserved their stories for over 160 years. Though it was believed that Clotilda had been completely destroyed, what remains of the wreck was discovered in 2019, inspiring fresh interest in one of the last illegal slave ships to journey from the coast of Africa to the United States. On July 8th, the efforts of the Clotilda Descendants Association and many other organizations in Mobile that have become invested in educating the public about Clotilda and the African survivors will finally be realized in the grand opening of the Africatown Heritage House. Here, the story of Clotilda will be told in “Clotilda: The Exhibition.” The president of the Clotilda Descendants Association, Jeremy Ellis, was kind enough to share his thoughts on the momentous event.

Sonar image of the Clotilda near Mobile today.

Sheritta: Mr. Ellis, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions regarding the opening of the Africatown Heritage House. From what I understand, The Africatown Heritage House has been a project in the making for quite some time. It must be a proud moment for the Clotilda Descendants Association and everyone in the Africatown community to see it finally become a reality. Can you tell us a little about the journey to get to this moment and the contribution of the CDA?


Jeremy:  The CDA and Africatown community are excited about the opening of the Heritage House. It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to the 110 survivors of Clotilda, their story, and the crime that was committed in 1860. It is also an opportunity to share with the world what the people of Africatown are experiencing today such as; environmental injustices, blight, health concerns, food desert, abandoned houses, etc.

The journey to get to this moment has been a long one and started way before the finding of Clotilda. My grandmother Beatrice Ellis and other descendants that were part of the original descendant organization (Africatown Direct Descendants of the Clotilda, Incorporated in 1984) advocated for a museum to tell the story of 110 survivors of Clotilda. Before the finding of Clotilda, they met with local leaders about a museum to tell this story.  They paved the way for this moment and the opening of the Heritage House. For that very reason, the CDA and its members are grateful and take this moment seriously and understand the responsibility we have to be good stewards of the story.

We must commend and thank Commissioner Merceria Ludgood for her leadership, dedication, and commitment to the descendants, the people of Africatown for the Heritage House. She has partnered with CDA and led the way for this moment, and we are grateful and thankful for her. We also have to thank Meg Fowler and her team at the History Museum for their collaboration with the “Clotilda: The Exhibition.” They have been great to work with and we appreciate their partnership.

For several years now, many leaders in the community have advocated for this moment and it is finally here, and the CDA is looking forward to the world learning more about our ancestors and the Africatown community, in the community they founded.  We can never let the world forget.


Africatown Heritage House in Africatown, Alabama

S: Along with being a space for the community, the Africatown Heritage House will display the “Clotilda: The Exhibition,” curated by the History Museum of Mobile. What was it like to work with the museum professionals to bring to life the story of the Clotilda survivors?


J: It’s been great working with Meg Fowler and her team at the History Museum of Mobile. They’ve collaborated with us throughout this journey and have been intentional about the exhibit telling the story of our ancestors from our narrative.


S: What kind of artifacts can visitors expect to see in the exhibit? What’s your favorite piece on display and why?


J: Visitors should expect to see artifacts that tell the story of the 110 survivors of the Clotilda and the Africatown community they founded. Some of the artifacts have been shared by the descendants of the 110 survivors. Visitors should also expect to see artifacts from the schooner Clotilda as well as many more. But in addition to the artifacts, visitors should come for the experience.


S: What does the community and the CDA hope to gain from the opening of Africatown Heritage House? Do you anticipate it being a major tourist draw?


J: From the CDA perspective, we hope the exhibit continues to draw attention to the story of the 110 and the crime that was committed by co-conspirators Timothy Meaher, Captain William Foster, and all parties involved. We also hope that it draws attention to the Africatown community and the many challenges the community residents experience today, such as environmental injustices, blight, health issues, food deserts, abandoned homes, etc.

Yes, we anticipate this to be a huge tourist attraction in the city of Mobile. National Geographic UK named Africatown Heritage House first on the Best Museums of 2023 list. Our hope is that the descendants and Africatown community benefit just as much from this tourist attraction as the city of Mobile does.  We hope that the city uses the revenue from the tourist attraction and reinvest in the descendants, the people of Africatown, and the community.


Mural of Clotilda painted near the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge in Mobile, Alabama. Painted by Labarron Lewis in 2017 (author photo, 2021)

S: What other historic sites or locations in Africatown can be visited that help flesh out the story of the Clotilda survivors? The Old Plateau Cemetery and the Clotilda roadside mural come to mind.


J: There are several historic sites and locations in Africatown that visitors should visit. You mention a few, such as the Old Plateau Cemetery, Union Baptist Church, Mobile County Training School, Lewis Quarters, etc. However, my recommendation is that visitors connect with one of the many certified tour guides in the community. That way they hear the stories connected to these sites.


S: The opening of the Heritage House will take place on July 8th, the same date known as “The Landing,” and there’s been some mention in previous press releases about special activities the CDA has planned for the grand opening. Can you give our readers a sneak peek at what’s in store?


J: Sure, in conjunction with the opening of the Heritage House, On Saturday, July 8th at @8:30 am cst, the Clotilda Descendants Association will host their annual “Landing” Event. During this 30-minute event, the CDA and its members will honor the arrival of the 110. The CDA is also hosting 4 boat tours to the Clotilda site. Tickets to this event will be made available soon and open to the public.


S: A sculpture at the Africatown Heritage House was dedicated back in February and it has some incredible symbolism and meaning behind its design. Can you tell us a little about “The Memory Keeper” and what it represents for you and the Africatown community as a whole?


J: Please refer to this speech that I gave about the sculpture and the article I wrote about it.


“The Memory Keeper” outside Africatown Heritage House, dedicated on February 3, 2023

S: On a more personal level, what does the Africatown Heritage House and its grand opening mean to you and the CDA?


J:  For me personally, I reflect on my ancestors Pollee (Kupollee),Rose Allen, and what they endured. I reflect on my grandmother Beatrice Ellis and the members of the original descendant organization, Africatown Direct Descendants of the Clotilda, Incorporated in 1984 and the foundation they laid and the road they paved for this moment. It’s a bittersweet moment, since our ancestors are not around to witness this moment, but it’s an opportunity for descendants to share our story and never let the world forget.

For CDA, the opening of the Heritage House aligns with the mission of our organization which is to honor our ancestors; preserve our culture, landmarks, and legacies; and educate future generations of descendants and the community and that is what the “Clotilda: The Exhibition,” will do.


S: If our readers want to learn more about the Clotilda story or about Africatown, but can’t visit the Heritage House in person, what resources can you recommend?


J:  There are several resources available. Please refer to our website for available books that tell our story. Also, the films Clotilda Last American Slave Ship is available on Disney+ and Descendant is available on Netflix.


S: Is there anything I haven’t asked that I should have? Anything you’d like to add?


J: We welcome all the support we can get from allies as well as donations to our organization.

Africatown Heritage House and the Clotilda exhibit will officially open on July 8, 2023, on the 163rd anniversary of the arrival of the fated ship into Mobile Bay. Hours of operation will be Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm (closed Sunday and Monday). Make plans to attend at 2465 Wimbush St, Mobile, AL 36610. For more information, visit

For more information on the Clotilda Descendant Association, visit their website at

To reserve advance tickets and see ticket rates, visit here:  Visit Us – Clotilda: The Exhibition at the Africatown Heritage House

The turnout is expected to be pretty large. Streets will be blocked and off-site parking with shuttles will be available.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!