Africatown Alabama

This post was originally written in January 2016.

I’ll be leaving Mobile, AL in a few months. So during these months, I am going to try my best to capture every part of the area, including Prichard. When I first moved here, the sheltered people of Mobile warned me about the city of Prichard. They swore it was one of the most dangerous cities ever. These people are legitimately afraid of this place. I personally don’t really fear American ghettos like that, let alone one near Mobtown. I’ve been to some of the infamous danger zones of America; East Point, College Park, Harlem, Detroit, and Chicago. Let me be clear, you won’t catch me just randomly taking a stroll in such areas. I’m not that naive. But having lived in Lagos and Port-Harcourt; having visited the slums of Nigeria multiple times, an afternoon walk in Prichard does not phase me. During MLK day, I got the opportunity to do some clean up work in the Prichard district, Africatown. 

Africatown had its beginnings in an 1860 plan by some wealthy landowners and their friends to see if they could evade the law and import slaves from Africa. They bet each other they could elude federal authorities. Timothy Meaher, a shipbuilder and landowner; his brother Byrnes Meaher, John Dabey and others invested money to hire a crew and captain for one of Meaher’s ships to go to Africa and bring back laborers for slaves.

They used Timothy Meaher’s ship Clotilde under Captain William Foster. It sailed in 1860 from GhanaWest Africa for its final destination of Mobile, more than half a century after the slave trade had been outlawed by the United States in 1808…

…As the government was investigating the illegal importation, the Africans were left on their own to survive. This was the site that was developed by them as what became known as Africatown. Among the Africans was a man named Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis, who was the last survivor of the original group, living until 1935.” – Wikipedia

There weren’t that many people outside. Every now and then, my group and I came across some sketchy old black men. I don’t know if they were sketchy because we were in the ghetto or because they were old black men in dark clothes. There were a few stray cats, and a lot of chained dogs barking at us.

To my memory, at least a third of the houses were abandoned. Most looked run down. A lot of the cars blasting hip hop would drive by leaving a lingering scent of marijuana. But the air was cool, the sun was bright and the sky was blue.


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