With NEH support, faculty at Spring Hill College hosted a professional development workshop for K–12 educators exploring the history and legacy of Mobile’s Africatown community. The virtual workshop focused on Mobile, Alabama, where in 1860 the slave ship Clotilda carried the last enslaved persons imported to the United States from West Africa. After the end of the Civil War and their emancipation, 32 of those captives purchased land on the outskirts of Mobile and founded Africatown, a diaspora community that remains inhabited by their descendants today. Participants left the program with a deeper appreciation for the experiences of Africatown’s founding generation, the resilience of the diaspora community that continues to persist in Mobile today, and pedagogical strategies for addressing difficult topics.
“I have a deeper knowledge of the subject of slavery. I now realize that the story of slavery must begin with the individuals who were enslaved, [exploring] their homes and cultures from Africa.”
–2020 program participant
The Clotilda arrived in the United States more than five decades after the translatlantic slave trade was made illegal and was purposefully sunk in an effort to hide the voyage. In 2019, its remains were finally recovered at the bottom of the Mobile River. Participants were able to benefit from and contribute to the vast scholarly and community discussions around the history and legacy of slavery in the U.S. that were spurred by the ship’s recovery. They learned about the slave voyages through Clotilda’s example and explored the impact of enslavement on communities today: descendants of the original Africatown community, many of whom still live there, spoke about the community’s cultural, social, and economic life.
Facts & Figures
of respondents agreed or strongly agreed they “will be able to use subject matter content [they] learned about in this program in [their] work”
Facts & Figures
of respondents agreed or strongly agreed they “will be able to use pedagogical strategies [they] learned from this program in [their] work.”
Complimenting the rich content, the workshop focused on how to teach tough histories and how to use digital media as part of the pedagogical process. Participants considered the perspectives and narratives they include in their lesson plans, approaches to research and multicultural teaching, and methods for incorporating more reflection and processing time for their students. They were also introduced to new technologies to use digital media as a way for their students to experience history, to interpret and understand history for themselves, and to share what they’ve learned with others. When describing the most valuable aspect of the workshop to them, a participant wrote that learning how to make the content explored accessible to their young students will help them “magnify a topic that has been glossed over for years.”