Do you know about Africatown? 

The last known group of people brought to America via slave ship were those brought in 1860 from modern-day Benin. After the Africans were freed from slavery in 1865, they were thrust into an unfamiliar American society.

With limited English-language skills and zero familiarity with the country they found themselves in, the newly freed men and women took to a rural area and established an "independent society." That community became "Africatown," located in Mobile, Alabama.

As we reported not long ago, a new book from legendary author Zora Neale Hurston will soon be released that tells the story of the last known survivor of the men and women brought from Benin.

Vulture recently posted an excerpt from Hurston's 1931 interview with that survivor, Cudjo Lewis. 

“I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?” the author asked.

Lewis replied, “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’”

Today, Africatown is no longer the 15,000-strong community it was in its heyday. Pollution from nearby factories and the destruction of its business district (bulldozed in the 1980s to make way for highways) have seen the population shrink and its historical treasures decay.

However, New York Magazine reports that there are now significant efforts to revive the town in order to preserve an important part of our black history.

Donna Mitchell, who previously served as executive assistant to Mobile’s first black mayor is one of the preservationists' leaders.

Mitchell and others of the Africatown Community Development Corporation are working with the city to purchase abandoned properties in hopes of encouraging families to return to the area. Mitchell also organizes a 5K run/walk to fund a free community garden.

Mitchell says the town is important not just for its history, but for what it means to the descendants of those brought to the area on that last slave ship. 

“This is the only place where somebody can say, ‘I know where my ancestors came from,’” said Mitchell.

Another leader in the organization, Joe Womack, hopes to keep the area's natural beauty intact.

The land outside the town proper has long been known for its natural beauty, and for providing early residents with plenty of wild game. Womack is currently fighting to ensure the city considers residents in large decisions, such as whether or not an energy company will be allowed to install storage tanks in an area called Hog Bayou.

The storage tank fight was won by Africatown residents, but Womack says the work is far from done.

“I won’t say that the fight is over,” Womack said, “’Cause the fight is never over.”

Photo: GIPHY

Africatown, forever.