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Mobile theater premieres slave ship documentary

APR's Guy Busby

Moviegoers in Mobile have until Thursday to get a sneak peek of a new documentary about the last slave ship to bring kidnapped Africans to Alabama.

The documentary titled Descendant was four years in the making. It tells the story of 110 people taken from Africa to Alabama on the Clotilda and how their children and grandchildren preserved the story. Crowds lined up at Mobile’s Saenger Theater to see this story hidden for 160 years.

"I think folks that are here are going to be swept into the story in a way that we haven't seen quite yet before," said Ramsey Sprague, the president of Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition. "Tonight is a celebration of an incredible documentary made by Margaret Brown, a local filmmaker that chronicles some of the story around the rediscovery of the sunken illicit slave vessel, the Clotilda, and the descendants of the shipmates that crossed that journey, the last trans-Atlantic slave journey and an examination of what's happening in the community today and how important historical self-examination, historical documentation and the exploration of our roots and the roots of justice."

Africatown resident Theola Bright was dressed in a white African dress and headpiece when the film premiered over the weekend.

"I'm expecting to see lots of my friends telling their side of the story or at least how they got to be a descendant, a direct descendant. This is mostly about the direct descendants," Bright said. "And I'm hoping that this will also generate some funds for Africatown so we can really build it up, sort of like a theme park or something like that."

Work is underway to build a museum in Africatown telling the story of the Clotilda and the development of the community.

If moviegoers can’t make to the Crescent theater in Mobile, Descendants is also available on Netflix.

Guy Busby is an Alabama native and lifelong Gulf Coast resident. He has been covering people, events and interesting occurrences on America’s South Coast for more than 20 years. His experiences include riding in hot-air balloons and watching a ship being sunk as a diving reef. His awards include a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists as part of the APR team on the series “Oil and Water,” on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Some of his other interests include writing, photography and history. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Silverhill.
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