MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Nearly 160 years after the Clotilda sank, it’s been found in the Mobile River. For descendants, this discovery is something they’ve been waiting for their whole lives.

52 years after the United States banned slavery, the Clotilda took off from Mobile in 1860, illegally taking 110 people back to Mobile. For decades the ship was a story passed down. Now, it’s being uncovered, and its history along with it.

Darron Patterson said, “It’s no longer a puff of smoke, it’s real.” Descendants of the enslaved people brought to Mobile by the Clotilda grew up hearing stories of the ship.

Descendant of Charlie Lewis, Joycelyn Davis said, “To hear them say we found it gave me chills.” Patterson said, “Two months on a boat and got here. They persevered.” Davis said, “Thinking about my ancestors on that boat listening to the waves, listening to the waters, the screams.” Patterson added, “And then after that, they still couldn’t go home, and they made their home right here. That’s, that’s unreal that’s character that we need today.”

The news of Clotilda’s discovery is not only impacting residents of Africatown, but potentially schools across the state. Senator Vivian Davis Figures said, “I’d like to see what we can do in the state of Alabama within the public education to add this as part of the curriculum and not just during February, Black History Month.” She continued saying, “This is all of our story, and I think it’s something that we really can use to start healing.”

Senator Davis Figures said the Clotilda belongs to the state, and the people of Africatown will be involved in whatever happens next with it. 

Senator Davis Figures said, “I know that they will be able to get different parts of the ship up, but also to build a replica of the Clotilda whereby people will actually be able to walk in and to be educated and told the story of Africatown and the Clotilda.”

This may not be the last discovery involving the Clotilda. The National Geographc Society is doing DNA testing on wood extracted from the ship and nearby soil. The society hopes this DNA will identify the people who were on the ship more than 150 years ago.