Descendant: An Africatown Documentary

In 1In 1860, two white men sailed to Africa with the intention of kidnapping Africans and bringing them back to Mobile, Alabama without anyone finding out. Margaret Brown’s new film “Descendant” tells the story of these men, their “success,” and more importantly, the 100 enslaved peoples that were brought to America on the Clotilda ship long after the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves was signed. The film traces the ancestry of current residents of Africatown, Mobile, Alabama, and provides these descendants with the opportunity tell their stories and the stories of their family and community, since the time of the Clotilda. 

“Descendant” aired at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and was recently purchased for distribution by Netflix and the Obama production company Higher Ground. The film promises to address Black erasure, both in its content and in its mere existence. This movie is a breakthrough in knowledge and education, and will hopefully pave the way for more research to be done on the lives of enslaved people and their descendants.

Local officials have failed to publicize the film, vastly ignoring the mass praise the film has received–despite Brown, “Descendant” creator, being a resident of Mobile, Alabama herself. In order for this film to truly succeed in counteracting centuries Black erasure, it is necessary for local leaders to embrace present efforts to recognize the horrors of the past.  

The movie focuses on one central question: how can we best remember our past? AARN is currently working with Africatown to establish a walking tour of the cemetery, another means by which to tell the stories of those who were brought to Mobile against their will. For more information, visit our page on technical assistance.