Robert Battles on the Clotilda: A Live Discussion about Black History

By: Dustin Petridge | Lifestyle Editor

Photo credit: Ballotpedia.

On Feb. 24, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted a speech from Robert Battles, a former member of the Mobile County Public School System and director of the Africatown Welcome Center. Battles gave a speech, followed by an open dialogue about the discovery of the slave ship Clotilda. 

In 2019, a ship originally intended to carry slaves across the Atlantic Ocean called the Clotilda was discovered in pieces at the bottom of Mobile Bay. After a lengthy search project by SEARCH, Inc. and the Alabama Historical Commission, researchers confirmed its existence, having sunken over 100 years ago. 

Battles is the director of the Africatown Revitalization Project and has been educating about Black History in schools since the 1980s. The discovery of the Clotilda inspired his speech today at South, where he once attended before beginning his political career. 

For half an hour, Battles spoke on the history of the Clotilda and its significance to Africatown, a community directly on Mobile Bay. 

Africatown, or Plateau, is an area with great historical significance to the city of Mobile, and many of its residents have family connections to 109 slaves that were transported from West Africa in the late 19th century. 

Battles represent the Africatown community and spoke on the importance of maintaining a legacy for people of all backgrounds in Mobile, a life lesson he learned in his 75 years.

On the topic of oppressive governments in the world, Battles commented that the driving force behind division in the nation and world is greed, “It’s not about race, it’s about money and power.” 

After a question-and-answer session, Battles closed the discussion by offering more advice and quotes to the audience, drawing on Dr. Martin Luther King’s classic teachings and even a classic parable. 

The speech was an inspiring opportunity to understand Black History’s significance related to our modern society. For more information on how to attend speeches like this in the future, visit the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs’ website