Cudjo Lewis ( 1841-1935) was a founder of Africatown, established by a group of people who were brought to Mobile, Alabama aboard the Clotilda, the last slave ship to the United States.Together with other African captives, he was brought to the United States on board the ship Clotilda in 1860.The Clotilda brought its captives to Alabama in 1860, a year before the Civil War. Even though slavery was legal at that time, the international slave trade was not, and hadn’t been for over 50 years. Along with many European nations, the U.S. had outlawed the practice in 1807.
Lewis’ journey is an example of how slave traders went around the law to continue bringing over human cargo. As for the Civil War, Lewis said he wasn’t aware of it when it first started. But part-way through, he began to hear that the North had started a war to free enslaved people like him. A few days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, Lewis said that a group of Union soldiers stopped by a boat on which he and other enslaved people were working and told them they were free. In the spring of 1931, Zora Neale Hurston finished writing a 117-page manuscript titled “Barracoon.” It told the true story of Cudjo Lewis. It was recently published.