The year is 1860 and though the transatlantic slave trade has been banned for more than 50 years, the enslavement of Black men and women still fuels the American economy. But Southern planters now face the threat of a civil war as the end of slavery in the United States looms. Plantation owner, Timothy Maher can’t conceive of such a disruption to his way of life. He resents government interference in his right to make a living. Against this backdrop, he makes a bet: that he can smuggle enslaved Africans into the United States without being caught. His fellow gentleman farmers take that bet and soon Maher has commissioned what is now known as the last slave ship, the Clotilda.
Wrenched from their homes in what is modern-day Benin, the Clotilda carries 110 African captives to an uncertain fate. Among these souls are five vibrant young men and women whose dreams are just starting to take flight: Abile, Gumpa, Kehounco, Kossola, Kupollee. They survive the Middle Passage and arrive in Alabama to start new lives as enslaved people, still clinging to a dim hope of one day returning home. But first, there is more to survive in America—cruelty, dehumanization, brutality, and a civil war. Through it all they hold fast to each other, they marry, they raise children, they make a way and they make a home in each other as they at last let go of that dim hope of ever returning to African shores. They refashion themselves at every turn and when they are finally free they refashion themselves yet again forming a legacy that still endures in African Town, the community they built together to live out their lives post-enslavement.
Inspired by the true story of the survivors of the last American slave ship, African Town is a powerful portrait of finding strength, joy and dignity in unimaginable pain and unforgivable acts. A novel-in-verse told in fourteen distinct voices this unforgettable, daring novel chronicles a pivotal, can’t miss moment in American history.
★ “The authors have done a remarkable job of weaving the stories of the characters together and telling the story from both the perspective of the slaves and the people who orchestrated their purchase. Though this story is fictional it is based on a vast amount of research that was done on the actual people who participated in this story. . . This story will inspire readers to do some research to find out more about the real events that took place. . . Not to be missed.” —School Library Connection, starred review
★ “Inspired by the true story of the last American slave ship, African Town is an epic . . . compelling novel that doubles as an important historic document, invaluable for both classroom use and independent reading.” —Booklist, starred review
★ “African Town is a book that should be both taught and treasured.”—BookPage, starred review
“The highly personal stories in verse reveal the different aspects of this illegal trade and the impact on both the Black enslaved people and the White crew members. . . The Africans’ attempts to hold true to their home cultures and traditions—most were Yoruba—as they try to adapt to their new reality come across most powerfully. Enhanced by rich backmatter, this is a strong addition to literature about slavery.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A thoughtful portrait of how trauma informs and inhibits identity making. The end matter is a wealth of fascinating information, from the author’s note that details Waters and Lathams’ research process, to a list that elaborates on the characters’ lives, to an account of what modern day Africatown (formerly Africa Town) looks like.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
About the Author
Irene Latham & Charles Waters are “Poetic Forever Friends” ﬁrst and collaborators second. They are the writing team behind Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, which was awarded a Charlotte Huck Honor, and Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z, an NCTE Notable Poetry Book. They share a passion for poetry and are committed to creating meaningful books for young readers. This is their ﬁrst novel together.
Dictionary For A Better World: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes from A - Z