American Roundtable: If We Can Save the Ship, We Can Save the Town, Africatown, Alabama

Editors Renee Kemp-Rotan and Vickii Howell and community representatives present the report If We Can Save the Ship, We Can Save the Town and discuss key themes and findings.

May 7, 2021
12:00 p.m.

Credit: Graveyardwalker (Amy Walker), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

American Roundtable is an Architectural League initiative, bringing together on-the-ground perspectives on the condition of American communities and what they need to thrive going forward.

Africatown is a small community outside of Mobile, Alabama, founded by emancipated Africans who had been illegally trafficked to the United States by slave-traders in 1860 aboard the ship Clotilda. If We Can Save the Ship, We Can Save the Town tells the story of this community’s ongoing fight, now catalyzed by the recent archaeological discovery of the Clotilda, to reclaim its history and revitalize its future. The report asks: Can a community use history, culture, and tourism to create equitable, sustainable development for the benefit of residents? How has the built environment contributed to Africatown’s struggles with endemic poverty, isolation, encroaching industry, and lack of services? What opportunities exist through design and planning to give new agency to this unique and resilient community? 

Join report editors Renee Kemp-Rotan and Vickii Howell; Africatown resident Ruth Ballard; Kern Jackson, director of the African American studies program at the University of South Alabama; Darron Patterson, president, Clotilda Descendants Association; Deborah G. Plant, editor of Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”; Natalie S. Robertson, author, The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Making of AfricaTown, USA: Spirit of Our Ancestors; and Joe Womack, director, Africatown~C.H.E.S.S., as they discuss the American Roundtable report If We Can Save the Ship, We Can Save the Town. Their presentations will be followed by discussion on some of the report’s key ideas and provocations with American Roundtable Project Director Nicholas Anderson and League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro.

Read the full If We Can Save the Ship, We Can Save the Town report.

Learn more about the American Roundtable Initiative.

Renee Kemp-Rotan is an urban designer, master planner, and the CEO of studiorotan. She resides in Birmingham, Alabama, and is working closely with the Africatown community on a number of initiatives, including the Africatown International Design Idea Competition.

Vickii Howell is a Mobile-based journalist, writer, PR strategist, and socially conscious community builder. She is currently the founder and president of M.O.V.E. (Making Opportunities Viable for Everyone) Gulf Coast Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization.