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PBS show reveals Questlove descended from last known slave ship, which landed in Alabama
The episode of the PBS program originally aired on December 12, while televisions in homes across the U.S. were fixated on Alabama's Senatorial elections. Talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault are also given genealogy results ...
By Jared Boyd
In an episode of "Finding Your Roots", a program that explores celebrity genealogies, famed drummer Questlove receives an unprecedented look at his family historyIn a first for the series, an African-American's family history is traced all the way back to the very ship which brought their descendants to America.
That ship, Questlove finds out, is the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to successfully transport Africans through the Middle Passage and into the United States. That ship's destination - Mobile, Alabama.
Questlove, whose real name is Ahmir Thompson, appears on the show, sitting at a table opposite historian Henry Louis GatesAs Gates flips through a book of photographs and newspaper clippings, walking musician through his heritage, Questlove sits in apparent disbelief.
"I'm on the absolute last ship that ever came here," The Philadelphia native says, immediately after learning of his family's path through West Africa's Atlantic Coast to the Alabama Gulf Coast.
The Clotilda, a schooner constructed in 1855 by shipbuilder William FosterIn 1860, prominent Mobile entrepreneur Timothy Meaher took Foster's ship to West Africa, on a bet that he could return with a haul of slavesWhile slavery was still in practice, the trade of new slaves through the Atlantic Ocean had been outlawed in the U.Ssince 1808.
Meaher loaded the ship with goods such as rice, beef, pork, sugar, bread, molasses, rum and gold, before departing for Benin (then known as Dahomey)While there, Meaher traded those goodsIn return, Gates says, Meaher was able to choose 125 slaves from a selection of 4,000Among that 125 was Questlove's third-great-grandfather, Charles Lewis.
"Think about the odds, man," Gates tells a stunned Questlove.
At the table, Gates digs deeper into The Roots leader's familial past, detailing their life after the perils of slaveryLike many of the survivors of Clotilda, Lewis and his family remained in Mobile after gaining freedomIt was there that they founded the community of Africatown.
Gates then presents Questlove with a picture of his aforementioned family patriarchIn a solemn moment, he hones in on his ancester's eyes.
"The eyes are the same," he says in a chilling tone"I never imagined this, in my entire life, that I'd see thisI have to keep looking at 'em, because those are my eyes, man."
Dig reveals story of America's last slave ship -- and its survivors
The episode of the PBS program originally aired on December 12, while televisions in homes across the U.Swere fixated on Alabama's Senatorial electionsTalk show host DrPhil McGraw and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault are also given genealogy results during the episode, which aired as the ninth installment of the series' fourth season.
You can learn more about Questlove, the Clotilda and Africatown by watching the full episode online here, or by checking local listings on Alabama Public Television's website.
@questlove On behalf of the great @City_of_Mobile and the proud citizens of #District2's Plateau Community we'd love to invite you to visit your roots in historic Africatown! #MobileWelcomesQuestlove!
-- Levon CManzie (@lcmanzie06) December 16, 2017
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