This week, something really exciting happened for our partners in Africatown, Alabama. The historic slave ship the Clotilda was reported discovered in Mobile Bay (also see this piece by Ben Raines in Alabama Local News). For those who have been following the posts and projects of MEJAC and Africatown (also see Bridge the Gulf and MEJAC), you will have heard of the Clotilda before. It's known as the "Last Known Slave Ship in U.S."
However, the dark history of the Clotilda does not end the story of injustice brought to those the ship carried below its wood and iron deck. Today's piece in the Guardian "'Still fighting': Africatown, site of last US slave shipment, sues over pollution" highlights many of these struggles, and what Africatown residents are doing about them:
"Today, this mostly black, low-income community has more than just a unique history as an against-the-odds bolthole of black independence in the Reconstruction south. Residents say they also have a serious industrial pollution and public health problem, and a group of about 1,200 have launched a lawsuit against the owners of a now-shuttered paper plant that was built in 1928 on land that was then owned by A Meaher Jr.
“People born after 1945 seem to be dying before the age of 65,” said Womack, who grew up during the mid-century heydey of the International Paper plant that drew thousands of workers here but also, according to residents, spewed ash across the town."
MEJAC President, Ramsey Sprague, sums it up:
"The news of the Clotilda slave ship discovery is incredible, but so is the resolve of Africatown residents fighting for Environmental Justice today! International Paper may have been a keystone economic driver for Mobile for most of the 20th century, but that does not mean it should have been given immunity from compliance with federal law. No one should be able to poison with impunity. Mobile must deal with its legacy of environmental racism...It's amazing that Africatown’s dioxin/furan contamination lawsuit against International Paper and the formation of CHESS is finally getting attention after a year of work - in a UK media outlet no less. Local media, where are y’all?"