Ghanaian Pioneers: Cudjo Lewis of AfricaTown, USA

Cudjo Lewis (1835 – 1935) Last full-blooded African to come to America on the Clotilde in 1859 Courtesy: University of South Alabama Archives, Erik Overbey Collection

AfricaTown, USA

AfricaTown is the site in Mobile, Alabama, along the Gulf Coast where the last cargo of Africans landed in 1860. Their landing marked the last recorded attempt to import Africans to the United States for the purpose of slavery.

The history of AfricaTown, USA, originated in Ghana, West Africa, near the present city of Tamale in 1859. The tribes of Africa were engaged in civil war, and the prevailing tribes sold the members of the conquered tribes into slavery. The village of the Tarkbar tribe near the city of Tamale was raided by Dahomey warriors, and the survivors of the raid were taken to Whydah, now the People’s Republic of Benin, and put up for sale. The captured tribesmen were sold for $100 each at Whydah. They were taken to the United States on board the schooner Clotilde, under the command of Maine Capt. William Foster. Foster had been hired by Capt. Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Mobile shipper and shipyard owner, who had built the schooner Clotilde in Mobile in 1856.

As secessionist fever was spreading through Alabama in the 1850s, there was much talk of reopening the African slave trade, which had been outlawed since 1808. It was in this setting that Meaher and Foster planned the Trans-Atlantic voyage of the Clotilde for the purpose of bringing an illegal cargo of slaves back to Mobile.

By the time the Clotilde arrived in Mobile, federal authorities, having heard about the illegal scheme, were on the lookout for it. Captain Foster entered Mobile Harbor on the night of July 9, 1860. He transferred his slave cargo to a riverboat and sent them up into the canebrake to hide them. He then burned his schooner and sunk it.

The Africans were distributed to those having an interest in the Clotilde expedition, with 32 settling on the Meaher property at Magazine Point, three miles north of Mobile. This formed the nucleus of what came to be known, and still is known, as AfricaTown. Cudjoe Lewis was among that group.

In a federal court case in 1861, US v. Byrnes Meaher, Timonthy Meaher, and John Dabey, the three were charged with importing 103 natives of Africa for the purpose of slavery in the United States on the schooner Clotilde. The case was dismissed because the Federal Court could not prove the involvement of Timothy Meaher in this plot, but there was a strong implication that the case was dismissed because of the beginning of the Civil War.

After the Civil War, the original group of intended slaves was joined by a number of their fellow tribesmen. For decades they continued speaking their native tongue, had disputes arbitrated by their tribal chieftain, Charlie Poteete, and had their illnesses treated by the African doctor, Jabez. Up until World War II, AfricaTown remained a rather distinct community in Mobile County.

AfricaTown is unique in that it represents a group of Africans who were forcefully removed from their homeland, sold into slavery, and then formed their own, largely self-governing community, all the while maintaining a strong sense of African cultural heritage. This sense of heritage and sense of community continues to thrive today, more than 140 years after the landing of the Clotilde in Mobile Bay.

Cudjo Lewis (Kazoola), the last living descendant of AfricaTown, left us his account of the war between the tribes in West Africa, the selling of Africans to be brought to Mobile on the Clotilde, and their voyage to AfricaTown.

When the original group of settlers dwindled because due to death, the remaining AfricaTowners would gather on Sundays after church at one of their homes to discuss the group’s welfare. Of the remaining number, Lewis was the best known, perhaps because he lived the longest (d. 1934) and was the most ebullient and talkative of all, giving interviews to the many writers who focused their work on AfricaTown during the early 1900s.

The AfricaTown Community Mobilization Project was formed in February 1997 with the purpose of establishing an AfricaTown Historical District, and encouraging the historical restoration and development of the site.

The Local Legacy project includes 16 pages of text, 11 color photographs, a map of the AfricaTown district, newspaper articles, information on the AfricaTown Mobilization Project, and a videotape, “AfricaTown, USA,” made by a local news station.

Originally submitted by: Sonny Callahan, Representative (1st District).

Omari Tahir-Garrett announces mayoral candidacy


Posted on January 9, 2013 by Tom Fucoloro
Omari at a meeting about the sale of the 23rd/Yesler fire station

Omari Tahir-Garrett announced his candidacy for Seattle mayor with a one-line email in his signature all-caps style:


He then copied and pasted the full text of a 2002 Seattle Times article about his sentencing hearing following an assault conviction for striking then-mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn at 23rd and Union (Tahir-Garrett maintains that he used his fist, not a bullhorn).

Few CD activists are as controversial as Omari, who was a leader of the Colman School occupation in the 80s and early 90s. That effort eventually resulted in the Northwest African American Museum, which is not the cultural center Omari had hoped it would be. Just last year, Mayor McGinn cancelled a town hall at NAAM due to disruptions led in part by Omari.

With a very public assault on his record and his propensity to disrupt public meetings, Omari has alienated many people. But his refusal to be silenced and his never-ending dedication to the causes he believes in has also earned him a following. And no matter how people feel about him, he is certainly a notorious force in the CD.

Both Omari and his son, Wyking Garrett, ran for mayor in 2009. The Seattle Times reports that Wyking, active organizer of the Umojafest Parade and PEACE Center, is considering a run this year, as well. Stay tuned.


Black Owned Liberty Bank & Trust Company


In 1972, Liberty Bank was chartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a focus on service, integrity and a sincere interest in community and business development. Nearly four decades later, Liberty Bank has expanded to 18 branch offices in six states.

Liberty Bank established its Baton Rouge presence in 1994 and opened a third branch in 2004. Liberty then moved into Mississippi in 2003, acquiring First American Bank in Jackson. This was followed by expansion into the Greater Kansas City market with the acquisition of Douglass bank in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, in 2008.

Liberty Bank and Trust Company expanded across Greater New Orleans with the 2009 acquisition of United Bank and Trust Company, securing four additional locations to serve that market. That was followed by the acquisition of Home Federal Savings in Detroit, Michigan, which increased the bank’s reach to seven major urban areas in six states.

Liberty Bank’s growth has been the result of acquisitions, fruitful partnerships, aggressive marketing, strong management, excellent staff productivity and the trust it enjoys in the community. It all adds up to an efficient, well-capitalized institution that is perfectly positioned to continue fast-paced growths in both profits and assets. At Liberty Bank, we are passionate about helping more people achieve more economic freedom.

There’s real freedom here – the freedom you have as an individual to attain your goals, as a business to achieve your idea of success or even as a community that is gathering strength to reach its full potential. By investing in the development of personal goals, business objectives and communities, we are making a difference by making the word ‘bank’ a verb rather than a noun, using our resources to get things done.

We work hard. Play hard. Invest where our heart lives. And pursue freedom for all. Trust Liberty Bank. There’s freedom here.

Omari Tahir-Garrett Running for Mayor of Seattle in 2013



By Alex Fryer

Seattle Times staff reporter

The trial of James Cordell Garrett ended as it began: with the defendant railing against the legal system, racism, prosecutors and 300 years of “European, settler, colonial terrorism.”

But yesterday in court, someone else had the last word.

King County Superior Court Judge Douglas McBroom sentenced Garrett, 56, also known as Omari Tahir-Garrett, to 21 months in prison for striking former Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn during a community festival last year.

After a weeklong trial, jurors took less than five hours to find Garrett guilty of second-degree assault.

Jurors also determined that a bullhorn could be a deadly weapon, which added a year to the sentence.

Twenty-one months was the longest sentence McBroom could impose within guidelines established by the Legislature.

During yesterday’s sentencing hearing, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Soukup asked the judge to not show Garrett leniency.

“It’s an assault on Paul Schell, but it’s also an assault on us all. It makes people feel unsafe and public officials feel unsafe in public forums,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face of the community itself.”

Garrett’s attorney Eric Weston unsuccessfully argued that his client suffers from “post-traumatic-stress disorder brought on by racial disparities in our society,” and needed to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. The judge refused and then allowed Garrett — whose first trial ended in a hung jury — the opportunity to argue for a reduced sentence.

“I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the lynching,” he told the court.

Garrett then launched into a diatribe about racism and oppression, rebuffing McBroom’s attempts to get him to talk about the case.

“I love to come to court,” said Garrett. “This is the only time European males will listen to me.”

Garrett continued: “I was sentenced when I was born a black baby. I’m not afraid of (being found) guilty, (serving) life, or 200 years for standing up and being a strong African-American male and an icon for our youth. Give me liberty or give me death! The truth hurts European-settler-terrorists!”

By this time, McBroom had had enough.

“Are you cutting me off?” asked Garrett. “I can’t speak for 10 minutes?”

“You have already spoken for 10 minutes,” said McBroom.

“Can I speak for half an hour?” asked Garrett.

“No,” said McBroom, who then began to explain his thoughts about the case.

“Don’t lecture me!” interrupted Garrett. “You’re not my daddy!”

“Your statements here and after trial to the media were obnoxious,” McBroom continued.

“So sentence me!” Garrett shot back.

“Mr. Garrett, here’s the sentence,” said McBroom, clearly losing patience.

He then announced that he was sentencing Garrett to the maximum amount of time.

Garrett is responsible for paying $2,793.03 in court costs. After his release from prison, he will be supervised by the Department of Corrections for 18 to 36 months. He also is to have no contact with Schell. A hearing to determine whether Garrett will pay restitution to Schell is to be scheduled.

Garrett’s first trial, in which he represented himself, ended in a mistrial May 9 after jurors could not reach a verdict, splitting 10-2 in favor of conviction.

Before Garrett was led away in handcuffs yesterday, he told the judge that he was filing an appeal.

“I’ll be back, judge,” he said over his shoulder as he was led out of the packed courtroom.

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or