Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Destruction of the "Clothilde", Mobile Bay, 1859

Kay Callison, who does blog interviews for the American Audio Prose Library at , sent me the following today.  I had never heard of this incident, nor of the Clothilde. Can anyone fill me in?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
"Saw a powerful documentary film that made me think of you this past weekend, at our annual True/False Film Festival (regarded as the best in the world, I might add, right here in Columbia, MO.!) It is called "The Order of Myths", and is about the oldest Mardi Gras in the country, in Mobile, AL, which dates back to 1703, as I recall. It is still totally segregated. The whites have theirs, the blacks, theirs. Key to the narrative is the story of the slave ship Clothilde, which the 3rd great grandfather of the 2006 white Mardi Gras queen (the one in the film) had brought into Mobile with 500 slaves aboard in 1857, on a bet. When he arrived, he went into town to collect on his bet. He left instructions that if he weren't back in one hour, to run the ship aground and set it on fire. As he did not return within the hour, his first mate did just that. Fortunately, all the 600 slaves aboard the ship escaped into the surrounding woods, and they and their descendants formed what they called Africa Town on that site, which remains. The Black 2006 Mardi Gras queen learns during the filming of the documentary that she is directly descended from one of those slaves. This is a very fine documentary, and I hope you get a chance to see it. The films which get brought to True/False are usually getting their debut here. Margaret Brown is the filmmaker. Her mother was the 1966 (very reluctant) White Mardi Gras Queen."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Reminds me of Henry Louis Gates' documentary on PBS of a couple of weeks ago, "Black Americans 2", tracing the ancestry of 8 prominent African Americans back to their earliest origins in this country and then--through DNA--to their African tribal roots. Very moving to see them take in this completely new--sometimes wonderful, sometimes challenging  information on camera, in real time.