Survivors: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the Atlantic Slave Trade

By Hannah Durkin

GUARDIAN: BOOKS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN 2024

WATERSTONES: JANUARY’S BEST BOOKS

BBC: BOOK HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2024

‘GRIPPING’ THE TIMES

This is an immersive and revelatory history of the survivors of the Clotilda, the last ship of the Atlantic slave trade, whose lives diverged and intersected in profound ways.

The Clotilda docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama, in July 1860 – more than half a century after the passage of a federal law banning the importation of captive Africans, and nine months before the beginning of the Civil War. The last of its survivors lived well into the twentieth century. They were the last witnesses to the final act of a terrible and significant period in world history.

In this epic work, Dr. Hannah Durkin tells the stories of the Clotilda’s 110 captives, drawing on her intensive archival, historical, and sociological research. Survivors follows their lives from their kidnappings in what is modern-day Nigeria through a terrifying 45-day journey across the Middle Passage; from the subsequent sale of the ship’s 103 surviving children and young people into slavery across Alabama to the dawn of the Civil Rights movement in Selma; from the foundation of an all-Black African Town (later Africatown) in Northern Mobile – an inspiration for writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Zora Neale Hurston – to the foundation of the quilting community of Gee’s Bend – a Black artistic circle whose cultural influence remains enormous.

An astonishing, deeply compelling tapestry of history, biography and social commentary, Survivors is a tour de force that deepens our knowledge and understanding of the Atlantic slave trade and its far-reaching influence on life today.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 18 Jan 2024
Pages: 432
ISBN: 978-0-00-844651-2
Dr. Hannah Durkin is a historian specialising in transatlantic slavery and African diasporic art and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Nottingham and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from Leeds Trinity University. She has taught at Nottingham and Newcastle universities, and recently served as a Guest Researcher at Linnaeus University in Sweden. She is an advisor to the History Museum of Mobile, which is working to memorialise the Clotilda survivors, and was the keynote speaker at Africatown’s 2021 Spirit of Our Ancestors Festival founded by the Clotilda Descendants Association. She is the recipient of more than a dozen academic prizes, including a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship.

‘Gripping . . . a remarkably wide-ranging book taking in everything from science to soft drinks to show how slavery’s insidious hand wormed its way into the very fabric of American life' -

The Times -

'Hannah Durkin lets the enslaved speak for themselves, and they tell a story not only of unimaginable suffering but also of courage and survival' -

Wall Street Journal -

'Devastating and visceral… Durkin’s exhaustive, exhilarating research has created something new - something personal, emotional, almost tangible - from the history of this collective trauma' -

Literary Review -

'Survivors, a comprehensive account of one of the most important parts of American history, is a triumph’ -

Booklist (starred review) -

”'A sweeping history of the survivors of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to land in America . . . Durkin’s in-depth view is based largely on the survivors” - own words and perspectives (some lived into the 20th century and related their stories to various writers, most notably Zora Neale Hurston), and is woven together with her extensive archival research. It’s a stirring saga of resilience that sheds new light on Black life in postbellum America’

Publishers Weekly (starred review) -

”'A highly recommended sweeping saga. Based on a rich archive that includes the survivors” - own stories, one of which became the basis for Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon, this title provides a human history of enslaved people and a portrait of the postbellum South’

Library Journal (starred review) -

‘A welcome history of defiance and survival’ -

Kirkus Reviews -