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The Clotilda was a ship used in an illegal slave trade and is listed as the last known vessel to deliver slaves to American shores. A reporter may have discovered the wreckage of the ship originally thought to be destroyed, unlocking a historical mystery that has evaded researchers for years.

This week, reporter Ben Gaines of AL.com made a discovery of a shipwreck in the muddy banks of a river delta in Alabama. The wreckage does appear to be the type of boat that would have been used at the time of the Clotilda’s final voyage, and historians are scrambling to uncover what they’ve found.

A plantation owner in the region hired a sea captain to pilot the Clotilda to West Africa after making a bet he could sneak the boat past authorities. At this time, the slave trade across the Atlantic was officially outlawed, though slavery persisted in the states. Under darkness, the Clotilda sailed into Mobile and up the Spanish River, unloading 110 slaves from West Africa. The boat was then reportedly torched to hide the crime.

In 1865, slavery was officially abolished and many of the West Africans settled into a new community called Africatown, which still exists today. Many of the descendants remained in the region and it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

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