Review of The Last Slave Ship by Ben Raines Rating *****
You can’t write a book about the last slave ship to America without talking about slavery. How can one person enslave another? It starts with blatant racism. Those who enslaved others believed that they were superior, and they were, for the most part. Not because of some biological trait. The only advantage they had was education and laws that allowed slavery.
I used to think that slavery occurred when white men went to Africa and rounded up indigenous people at random, using force and killing those who didn’t comply. It turns out that Africans themselves did most of the rounding up and killing. All for the greed and satisfaction of a select few.
Author Ben Raines takes the reader on a journey that begins with an attack on a remote African village. Waiting for the captives is a ship called the Clotilda. The owner of the vessel has decided to ignore newly enacted laws prohibiting the slave trade. After crossing the ocean, with their cargo chained together in the hull of the ship, the captain of the Clotilda must elude patrol boats looking for the illegal cargo.
The whole enterprise of tearing families apart and forcing labor from another individual for the benefit of one man or woman is appalling. Yet the practice lasted for more than two hundred years. The author traces what happened to them throughout their remaining lives.
The Clotilda slaves were finally freed five years after arriving in America. The discrimination and abuse, however, never really abated. From the criminal justice system to industrial pollution to a lack of opportunities, the Clotilda passengers, along with the thousands who came before them, continued to suffer from the prejudices and racism that took them from their land.
The last part of the book deals with the search and discovery of the ship along with efforts to establish a memorial and museum.