The Slave Schooner Clotilda: Hidden but Not Forgotten

Monday, 4 November | 7:30 – 8:30 PM | Mobile Convention Center

In 1860, the Mobile-built schooner Clotilda entered the Mobile River with 109 enslaved persons on the last known voyage of a slave ship to bring people into the United States in violation of laws banning the slave trade – but not slavery. It was then burned and sunk, but never were it and what had happened forgotten. The June 2019 announcement of the discovery and identification of the wreck off Mobile’s Twelvemile Island has again focused attention not only on the story of the schooner. It also focused on the people brought to Alabama on Clotilda, and of Africatown, now part of Mobile, home to descendants of some of the schooner’s unwilling captives who when freedom came, established the community in the aftermath of the Civil War. The wreck lies in a graveyard of ships that were purposely scuttled or abandoned in a backwater of the Mobile River. This is the story of the research, science and forensic archaeology used to identify the wreck of Clotilda, a nationally-significant archaeological site now protected by the Alabama Historical Commission for the people of Alabama.

James Delgado, Ph.D. is among the world’s leading experts in maritime archaeology and cultural heritage. Dr. Delgado joined SEARCH in 2017 and serves as Senior Vice President. He is responsible for ensuring operational and research excellence, implementing strategic initiatives, and expanding the firm’s international footprint. Dr. Delgado also serves as a public speaker, international delegate, documentary host, and major project spokesperson. Prior to joining SEARCH, Dr. Delgado served as the Director of Maritime Heritage in the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries for NOAA for seven years, where he implemented heritage programs and active research in the nation’s waters, as well as promoted outreach and education on America’s underwater and marine heritage. Previously, he served a four-year term as President and CEO of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, the world’s leading scientific and educational organization dedicated to the understanding of humanity’s seafaring history through the excavation and scientific study of shipwrecks. Dr. Delgado was the Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum in British Columbia, Canada for 15 years, and he served as Maritime Historian and Head of the US government’s Maritime Heritage Program for the US National Park Service for four years in Washington, DC. Dr. Delgado also served as the first historian for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco Bay Area where he participated in the restoration and interpretation of Alcatraz.

Dr. Delgado is the author, co-author, or editor of more than 30 books, including The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor (Texas A&M University Press), The Maritime Landscape of the Isthmus of Panama (University Press of Florida), and the Encyclopedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology (Yale University Press). He has served as keynote speaker and presented to more than a hundred conferences and his work has reached hundreds of millions of viewers as host on six seasons of a National Geographic series, The Sea Hunters, as well as scientific programs on Discovery, The History Channel, A&E, and Nat Geo. On social media, his live expedition broadcasts at Pearl Harbor and at the wreck of the USS Independence were each telecast to over one million viewers. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and The Explorers’ Club, and most recently was made an Officer of the Order of Civil Merit by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain.