The Last Slave Ship: Book summary and reviews of The Last Slave Ship by Ben Raines

The Last Slave Ship

The True Story of How Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning

by Ben Raines

The Last Slave Ship by Ben Raines X
The Last Slave Ship by Ben Raines
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Book Summary

The incredible true story of the last ship to carry enslaved people to America, the remarkable town its survivors founded after emancipation, and the complicated legacy their descendants carry with them to this day - by the journalist who discovered the ship's remains.

Fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed, the Clotilda became the last ship in history to bring enslaved Africans to the United States. The ship was scuttled and burned on arrival to hide evidence of the crime, allowing the wealthy perpetrators to escape prosecution. Despite numerous efforts to find the sunken wreck, Clotilda remained hidden for the next 160 years. But in 2019, journalist Ben Raines made international news when he successfully concluded his obsessive quest through the swamps of Alabama to uncover one of our nation's most important historical artifacts.

Traveling from Alabama to the ancient African kingdom of Dahomey in modern-day Benin, Raines recounts the ship's perilous journey, the story of its rediscovery, and its complex legacy. Against all odds, Africatown, the Alabama community founded by the captives of the Clotilda, prospered in the Jim Crow South. Zora Neale Hurston visited in 1927 to interview Cudjo Lewis, telling the story of his enslavement in the New York Times bestseller Barracoon. And yet the haunting memory of bondage has been passed on through generations. Clotilda is a ghost haunting three communities—the descendants of those transported into slavery, the descendants of their fellow Africans who sold them, and the descendants of their American enslavers. This connection binds these groups together to this day. At the turn of the century, descendants of the captain who financed the Clotilda's journey lived nearby—where, as significant players in the local real estate market, they disenfranchised and impoverished residents of Africatown.

From these parallel stories emerges a profound depiction of America as it struggles to grapple with the traumatic past of slavery and the ways in which racial oppression continue to this day. And yet, at its heart, The Last Slave Ship remains optimistic – an epic tale of one community's triumphs over great adversity and a celebration of the power of human curiosity to uncover the truth about our past and heal its wounds.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Journalist Raines unearths in this riveting chronicle the story of the last slave ship to arrive in the U.S...an evocative and informative tale of exploitation, deceit, and resilience." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Raines weaves an impressively multilayered story...[he] should be commended for his dogged journalistic work locating the sunken ship, which the owners tried to destroy, as well as the descendants of those original enslaved Africans. A highly readable, elucidating narrative that investigates all the layers of a traumatic history." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Raines effectively blends historical research and journalism into a gripping transatlantic tale of trauma, hope, and reconciliation. An absolutely essential book." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Ben Raines' passionate detective work led him to discover the most famous slave shipwreck… Raines has written a crucial chapter in this unique story of loss and exploitation, but also of unsurmountable strength and hopefulness. An inspiring and captivating book." - Sylviane A. Diouf, PhD, author of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America

"The Last Slave Ship is all at once the true story of a terrible crime and its survivors, a riveting account of discovering the evidence its perpetrators hoped would never be found, and a moving attempt to grapple with its legacy. We may never ultimately be able to reckon adequately with slavery, but Ben Raines reminds us that the task's immensity is no excuse for neglecting it. This is a powerful and important book." - Joshua Rothman, the Dept. of History professor at University of Alabama

"Raines' adroit descriptions of the people and events triggered by the voyage of Clotilda are not only riveting, but speak to the true spirits of all involved." - Darron Patterson, President of The Clotilda Descendants Association

This information about The Last Slave Ship shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Ben Raines

Ben Raines is an award-winning environmental journalist, filmmaker, and charter captain. He lives with his wife in Fairhope, Alabama.

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