A Survivor of the Last Slave Ship Lived Until 1940

The last known survivor of the last American slave ship died in 1940—75 years after the abolition of slavery. Her name was Matilda McCrear.

When she first arrived in Alabama in 1860, she was only two years old. At the time of her death, Matilda had experienced civil war, reconstruction, the laws of Jim Crow, the First World War, the Great Depression and the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe.

The facial scars on her left cheek – which are preserved in photographs – indicate that she came from the Yoruba people of West Africa. His first name was “Àbáké”, which means “born to be loved by all”. She and her mother and sisters were captured from their home by the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey and taken to the slave port of Ouidah in present-day Benin. There, Captain William Foster and his crew illegally purchased his family and more than 100 others for traffic in Alabama on the Clotilda, the last known American slave ship (the importation of people enslaved had been illegal in the United States since 1808).

READ MORE: The descendants of the last slave ship still live in the community of Alabama

Once in Alabama, a famous slave owner named Memorable Walker Creagh bought Àbáké, his mother and 10-year-old sister to work on his plantation. Her two older sisters went to another plantation and she never saw them again. In the Creagh plantation, “Àbáké” became “Matilda”, later known as “Tilly”. Her mother became “Gracie” and her sister became “Sallie”.

When the civil war ended five years later, she and the other members of her family were free, but they had no way of returning home.

The new “last” survivor of Clotilda

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