South Professor Kern Jackson on New Clotilda Documentary

Article and photo by: Conor Merrick | News Editor |

Director Margaret Brown’s film “Descendant”, shown at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival is co-written and co-produced by South’s very own Dr. Kern Jackson. The film’s success at Sundance sparked Netflix and Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, to acquire the film.

Dr. Jackson is the director of the African American Studies Minor at the university and an assistant professor of English. He worked with the film’s director, Margaret Brown, to develop a movie that documented the legacy of Africatown and Clotilda by speaking to current residents to allow them to tell their own stories.

“You hear from them in their own words, beautifully,” said Jackson. “So this, in part, is why I appreciate the descendants who are part of the film. The descendants, right?….[they] sort of demonstrate what happens when things are misdefined as people are trying to recover from…seven generations of historical trauma.”

The Clotilda slave ship illegally imported about 110 slaves in 1860. After slavery was abolished, the same man who kidnapped them all, Timothy Meaher, eventually agreed to give them the land Africatown is founded on. Despite its struggles, Africatown persisted and is now one of the most important heritage sites in the world. The story the descendants have to tell not only reflects the power of their community but other communities just like it as well. 

“Africatown is an inflection point for all of these things,” said Jackson. “It’s an inflection point. It speaks for more than one community and more than one feeling, more than one thing. It isn’t just about, you know, some racist dude who went off [and had] commissioned a ship to be built, went off to West Africa to get a commodity of human bodies and bring it back. It’s not just that, it’s what that represents. What are the implications of that?

Africatown was recently put on the World Monuments Fund’s list for the “world’s most significant heritage sites in need of immediate attention.” The town has dealt with all kinds of obstacles throughout the years, including environmental racism as industrial companies and plants polluted the area. But “Descendants” shows how the community persists and continues to grow from its 

It’s unclear when the film will debut on the streaming service at this time.