Africatown museum in Alabama delayed due to shipping crisis


This photo shows the future Africatown Heritage House on Monday, September 13, 2021 in the Africatown community in Mobile, Alabama. Africatown’s resurrection as a potential world-class tourist destination is now well known as planning for walking and water tours moves forward. , a museum and visitor center, and a development company aimed at bringing businesses to the community founded by slaves over 161 years ago. (John Sharp / Press-Register via AP)


Africatown’s resurrection as a potential world-class tourist destination is now well known as planning goes ahead for walking and water tours, a museum and visitor center, and a development company. aiming to bring businesses to the community founded by slaves for over 161 years since.

But bumps are expected along the way. The latest is taking place with the second round of delays for the Africatown Heritage House, which is not expected to open until the first quarter of 2022.

The house is slated to be turned into the Africatown community’s first museum since the discovery of the slave ship Clotilda in May 2019. The ship is credited with being the last known ship to bring slaves to the United States.

“We are frustrated,” said Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood. “Each delay pushes him further and further (behind).”

The reason for the delay is due to the slowdown in global shipments, which pushed the arrival of the prefabricated house back to November. It was previously scheduled to arrive this month.

Earlier this year, the 5,000 square foot structure was due to arrive in July or August. But that schedule was pushed back to June after the contractor delayed getting a ground disturbance permit to begin work.

Ludgood said, “We took the manufactured (home-made) route because we were trying to do it quickly. But we would really have the same if we (built the building).


Further work is required once the house arrives and is installed next to the Robert Hope Community Center. A roof should be added and on-site landscaping should take place. Museum exhibits will also take 10 to 12 weeks to install inside the building.

“Most of what can be done in advance is done: the exhibits are designed, the text is written and the audiovisual components are under development,” said Meg Fowler, director of the History Museum of Mobile which is in assembly charge. displays.

She added: “In fact, the construction of the exhibition, however, will require us to build false walls and other exhibition components in the gallery space and it is a job that cannot begin. until the space is full. “

Other tourist attractions are on hold until the Heritage House is completed. The main ones are the water tours and the screening of a 24 minute film on Africatown which was created by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

“We believe that the history of tourism needs to be aligned with the development of assets there,” said David Clark, President and CEO of Visit Mobile. “We believe that the perfect time to turn history into an experience is the opening of the Heritage House. When the Heritage House opens, we’ll have something really cool to showcase the story of Clotilda, Africatown. “

Clark noted that it took over 160 years to get to tell the story of the Clotilda through permanent exhibits and through storytelling on land and water tours.

He added, “With (the opening of the Heritage House) being pushed back a bit due to a lack of supply chain, I feel like it’s always around the corner. We are super excited.

Darron Patterson, president of the Clotilda Descendants Association, is also not concerned about the delay. He said construction project managers face uncertainties and need to adjust their own timelines.

“Honestly, it gives us more time,” Patterson said.

He said the extra time gives public officials more time to help “spruce up” in the predominantly black and poor neighborhood before international tourists arrive.

“We’ve got company coming and we’ve got to do more there than just build a building and say, ‘Come on,’” Patterson said. He said he would like to see slow traffic along Africatown Boulevard and dilapidated housing needs to be demolished.

“We have to start thinking about what’s going on,” Patterson said. “The business is coming. We have to be sure that we can accept company. “


The Descendants Association is also working with a playwright on a production on the story of Clotilda, although no timeline has been set for the completion of a production.

The Mobile County Commission on Monday gave the association $ 28,000 for “the development of intellectual property linked to the history of Africatown.”

“Part of his contract is directing and doing the casting calls and he will be doing the rehearsals and the presentation,” Ludgood said. “This is all really for the playwright’s expense.

Patterson said the organization has teamed up with a “nationally recognized” playwright to create a production that he says will be the “beginning of the introduction of professional black theater to Mobile.” He said the goal is to make the Clotilda story a Broadway production, similar to the Hamilton hit.

“We’re trying to get into an area that we think is good for Mobile and we appreciate the county commission for trusting us to give us the money to move forward with some things,” Patterson said.

He said the money will help the association keep and maintain Clotilda’s story.

“There are all kinds of charlatans out there even trying to take advantage of what’s going on with the Clotilda (discovery),” Patterson said. “There are people who come to Africatown and see if there are goods available to obtain. They have no interest in Africatown. It’s something that we try to push back every day. “

He added: “It’s not about the money. It’s about making sure that the legacy of the 110 people on this ship shows the resilience they’ve made, that we are bonded and determined to make sure that doesn’t die. Africatown’s survival is important. The rebirth of this community is important. Everyone has an agenda, and ours is to make sure our story lives on. “

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