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Last survivor of US slave ships identified

SLAVE SHIP SURVIVOR: The permanent memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade

THE LAST survivor of the transatlantic slave trade has been identified.

Redoshi, also known as Sally Smith, is believed to have been the last surviving African-born slave in the Americas.

The discovery was made following research by Dr Hannah Durkin, an academic at Newcastle University.

Durkin’s research pieces together the life of Redoshi from her kidnapping in West Africa, through her enslavement in Alabama, and her eventual freedom.

Redoshi, who died in 1937, was closely associated with activist beginnings of the US civil rights movement to “create the first composite biography of a female transatlantic slavery survivor”.

During her research for another project, Durkin, a lecturer in literature and film, came across references to Redoshi in writings by Hurston and then found she could chart her life story through various texts.

Speaking of the discovery, Durkin said: “These materials add hugely to our understanding of transatlantic slavery as a lived experience.”

She added: “Now we know that its horrors endured in living memory until 1937, and they allow us to meaningfully consider slavery from a West African woman’s perspective for the first time.

“The only other documents we have of African women’s experiences of transatlantic slavery are fleeting allusions that were typically recorded by slave owners, so it is incredible to be able to tell Redoshi’s life story.

“Rarely do we get to hear the story of an individual woman, let alone see what she looked like, how she dressed and where she lived.”

Redoshi, who can be found in a number of sources, appears in a film, which is believed to be the only known footage of a female survivor of the transatlantic slave trade.

Prior to this revelation, Oluale Kossola, also know as Cudjo Lewis, was thought to be the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. However Kossola died in 1935, while Redoshi died two years later.

One of 116 West African children and young people on board the Clotilda, the last slave ship that arrived in the US, Redoshi was enslaved for around five years.

After she was freed, she continued to live with her daughter on the plantation where she had been enslaved.

“She lived through tremendous trauma and separation, but there is also a sense of pride in these texts. Her resistance, either through her effort to own her own land in America or in smaller acts like keeping her West African beliefs alive, taking care in her appearance and her home and the joy she took in meeting a fellow African in the 1930s, help to show who she was,” Durkin said.

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