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National Geographic UK names Africatown Heritage House as one of the best museums in the US

Written by: Karris Harmon

Published by NBC 15 on February 25, 2023

MOBILE, Ala (WPMI) — The story of the Clotilda and the descendants of Africatown has been recognized nationally for years. Now, they're being recognized internationally. National Geographic UK has rated The Africatown Heritage House as one of the best new museums in the United States, and it's not even open yet.

Renderings of Clotilda: The Exhibition at the Africatown Heritage House
Renderings of Clotilda: The Exhibition at the Africatown Heritage House

Many people say the Clotilda and the story of the Africatown Community is one of the best kept secrets in U.S. history. The Africatown Heritage House will share that secret with the world.

"It's really a story of the survivors hope and courage and resilience," says Melissa Harville with the History Museum of Mobile.

Their courage aboard the last slave ship to come to Alabama in 1860, more than half a century after the slave trade was abolished. The exhibit will house artifacts from the ship as well as objects on loan from several museums across the world.

"Displaying their story from the beginning in West Africa and Benin and all the way up through Africatown and where it is today," says Harville.

The Heritage House is not complete just yet... so how did Africatown get put on National Geographic's radar?

"National Geographic has been involved with us at the state level, they're not part of the exhibition but they have been down here doing research they helped with the shipwreck, and we're really honored that they chose us to be first," says Harville.

"To have a solid base where people can come and explore it and experience it, and learn this international story," says Karlos Finley, the Executive Director of the Africatown Redevelopment Corporation.

Karlos Finley tells me this is the second time Africatown has been featured in National Geographic, and with international coverage comes international foot traffic.

"We expect people from all over the world to continue to come to Africatown. As a tour director I have given tours of Africatown and all of Mobile to people from every continent on the planet," says Finley. "Everyone that you can imagine has come to Mobile. We now expect those numbers to multiply."

When I've done stories in the past with descendants of the enslaved Africans held captive on the Clotilda, they've told me they're all for The Heritage House, but they hope the proceeds go back into the community.

"That is a constant discussion because it is the single most important piece of what all of us our doing," says Finley. "Cultural heritage tourism is the fastest growing leg of tourism in the world and so for us to have this unique opportunity to be able to enrich a community in its entirety is of most importance."

The exhibit will be open to the public July 8th of this year.



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