Africatown: America’s Last Slave Ship and the Community It Created

Blackstone Audio. Feb. 2023. 13:27 hrs. ISBN 9798212232616. $22.95. HIST
Journalist Tabor shines a light on the roots, growth, and near extinction of Africatown, a community in Mobile, AL, settled by the last group of enslaved people brought to the U.S. in 1860. Eloquently narrated by Chris Butler, this production tells how Timothy Meaher illegally purchased a group of 110 Africans from the Kingdom of Dahomey and forcibly transported them aboard the ship Clotilda. Butler describes the appalling conditions the captives endured and relates how they founded Africatown when they could not return home after the Civil War. Butler’s performance intensifies as he shares their difficulties in owning land, voting, and getting an education. His voice has an air of ambivalence when industries encircle Africatown, bringing in not only jobs but also pollution and health hazards. It turns to anger when developers plan to route truck traffic through the neighborhood, and petrochemical companies propose building oil storage tanks nearby. The dream for renovation is dashed, leaving Africatown in limbo. Butler skillfully captures the voices and emotions of quoted speakers, enlivening the production.
VERDICT A fascinating history of this unique community to pair with Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon or Ben Raines’s The Last Slave Ship, narrated by Kevin R. Free.
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