African American History Forum
Marker honoring Clotilda slaves unveiled
Marker honoring Clotilda slaves unveiled during ceremony at church they founded
Monday, February 11, 2008
By SUSAN DAKER
Descendants of those who arrived in Mobile on the last slave ship, the Clotilda, honored their ancestors Sunday in an African ceremony called libation.
They poured water from a painted jug into a porcelain dish.
"When we pour libations, we awaken our ancestors to ask their help," said Kern Jackson, a professor of African-American studies at University of South Alabama.
On Sunday afternoon, the congregation of Union Baptist Church in the Plateau community in north Mobile called upon their ancestors to be with them as they celebrated the unveiling of another historical marker on Mobile's new Black Heritage Trail.
The trail is an ongoing project of the Mobile Historic Development Commission to recognize significant African- American historic sites. When completed, there will be 32 marker locations throughout the city.
The latest marker sits on Bay Bridge Road in front of Union Baptist, which was founded in 1869.
A host of local leaders and Sylviane Diouf, the author of "Dreams of Africa in Alabama" -- a book about the Clotilda and Africatown -- addressed the audience Sunday, incorporating the themes of the African slaves' struggles in Mobile with the present day economic hardships of their descendants in America.
"You can't know where you are going until you know where you've been," said Dora Finley, a local preservationist who has helped organize the heritage trial.
By next year, Finely said she wants all fourth-graders in Mobile County public schools to be required to take a guided tour of the Black Heritage Trial.
Diouf, a French historian, explained that Union Baptist Church has been a central part of the history of Africatown, which is an area of north Mobile settled by Africans.