africatown

I had a Professor of Economics in college tell his students "there is a lot of money to be made when dealing with poor people and children. Neither are in control of their own future and both allow others to make decisions for them. Businesses are allowed to build and tear down housing projects to move them around like nomads all in the name of good. While those in charge of solving the poverty problem are not interested in doing so because if they did their jobs would disappear.

This video was made in April 2014, at a US Human Rights Network hearing on human rights abuses, part of the Mobile Center for Fair Housing’s Regional Justice Leadership summit. I told the story of Africatown’s founding, the introduction of the paper industry and pollution in the 1940's, decline of the industry in the 1990's, and attempts to bring in new industry in 2014.

Africatown's Magazine Point Neighborhood is situated on both the Mobile River and the Three Mile Creek. The part of Magazine Point that sets on the Mobile River is where that last shipment of slaves in America actually landed, whereas that portion that sets on the Three Mile Creek has a spiritual connection because it is the place where that last slave shipment would baptize themselves.

The Plateau section of the Africatown community is often referred to as "Africatown's Bedroom Community.” As the name suggests, the Plateau neighborhood's elevation is higher than any other area of the community. Africatown is surrounded on three sides by water. To the north is Hog Bayou, on the east is the Mobile River and to the south is the Three Mile Creek.

The historical value of Africatown's Hog Bayou was carved in stone long before the Oil Barons of the world discovered Africatown's valuable wetlands. Africatown's Hog Bayou will forever be known as the place in Mobile where the "African" slaves taught the "American" slaves how to feed themselves and their loved ones after slavery had ended. The last recorded shipment of slaves to arrive in America landed aboard the slave ship Clotilde in 1860. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, freeing all slaves.

Back in the 60's I could always tell when election time was near. First, city equipment would show up to clean the streets and clear out vacant lots. Then the politician would make an appearance at the Elks and buy a round of drinks for everyone in the place. The next day he would sponsor a chicken and fish fry for the community. At the height of the community outing he would make a speech. That speech would always promise everything but deliver nothing.

Photo: Oil and gas pipelines run behind Africatown's historic Mobile County Training School.  Photo credit: Karen Savage

The law will be of no value to you if 1) you do not know the law, 2) you are afraid to use the law, 3) you cannot financially afford the law. Historically, laws are created to protect the innocent and the weak or safeguard the greedy.

To commemorate the 155th anniversary of the beginning of the Africatown saga and the 154th anniversary of the landing of the last recorded shipment of slaves to this country, here is a summary of the "Africatown Story" from 1859 to today. (As told to me by Mr. Henry Williams as he taught Sunday School at Yorktown Baptist Church).

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