The 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.
The gripping and affecting book tells several stories, and Raines deftly weaves them into a tight, propulsive narrative ... Raines’ narrative shines as the story reaches the present day ... The book feels especially timely when Raines assesses the controversies that continue to surround the Clotilda.
... perceptive ... This story from long ago puts into context what the new spate of lawlessness in the US is all about. Raines tells a tale of racism and greed. Anyone who imagines that attempting to circumvent democracy is a new thing has forgotten the civil war ... For many, one suspects, the most enlightening part of this sad saga occurs at the start. Some who have heard of the direct involvement of Africans in the Atlantic slave trade have suspected apologists’ propaganda. True, as with today’s drug trade, without a lucrative market among Arabs, Europeans and Americans, slavery would have collapsed much sooner. But there is no exaggerating the extent to which the rulers of Dahomey were involved in capturing fellow Africans for both enslavement and sacrifice. Its victims are estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
The book makes some missteps ... What distinguishes Raines’s book is not only the story of that discovery, but also his perspective as a river guide in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta ... Raines vividly conjures the watery landscape into which the Africans stepped, an alligator-filled swamp once thick with canebrake, now transformed by hydroelectric dams. Knowledge of these waterways also led Raines to locate the Clotilda in a place previous searchers had ignored ... Clearly, the story of the last slave ship is still far from over, and the 'extraordinary reckoning' hinted at by Raines’s subtitle has barely begun.