She Was The Last Survivor Of The Clotilda

Slave Ship poster
Shonda Buchanan
November 19, 2020

The sun beat down on her as she trudged along the lonely dirt road. She had a long way to go.

73-year-old Matilda McCrear had heard from one of her grandsons that veterans of World War I were receiving long-overdue survivor’s benefits for their service.

So she embarked on a 17-mile journey on foot, holding on to her mother’s words and remembering their tragic journey to America. 

Exhausted and sweating, she arrived in Selma. She was owed something too, she told the judge! She was also a survivor – of something worse than war. What she said stunned everyone.

Pointing to the marks on her face, she informed them that she was the last survivor of the slave ship Clotilda

Kidnapped from Africa at age two with her mother and sisters, she was enslaved in Alabama. After emancipation, she’d scrabbled a life together due to her resilience and self-respect, building community and raising children. But how would they respond?

Sadly, she did not receive reparations. But she proudly told the judge that her “reparations” was making her presence known!

McCrear’s story, and her descendants, are proof that our strength, dignity and tenacity in the face of oppression can carry us through hard times. How are you maintaining your self-respect in the face of oppression?

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