Redoshi, Sally Smith

Redoshi, also known as Sally Smith (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture; photo in the public domain)

In 1860 (some sources say 1859), Redoshi (1848?–1937—some sources say she was 110 when she died) was just 12 years old when she was kidnaped and forced to leave her country of what is now Benin in West Africa and travel to the United States aboard the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to smuggle enslaved people into the United States, 52 years after importing slaves was in violation of U.S. law. Aboard the ship, she was forced to marry an adult slave named William, who spoke a different language and had a family in Africa, and they were sold to plantation owner Washington Smith, a founder of the Bank of Selma. At Smith's Bogue Chitto plantation, she was renamed Sally Smith and worked in the house and fields for nearly five years, until emancipation in 1865. During her enslavement, she gave birth to a daughter, who stayed with her on the plantation after emancipation, because they did not have the means to pay for a return trip to Africa. She and other enslaved people on the plantation later came to own around 6,000 acres of that land, where many, including Redoshi, lived out their lives. As of 2019, she is considered to be the last Middle Passage survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. (Cudjo Lewis, who died in 1935, previously was thought to be the last surviving slave trade victim.) On May 23, 2019, researchers at the Robert Hope Community Center in Mobile, Alabama, announced that a wrecked ship found off the Gulf Coast is the Clotilda, which carried 110 people, including Redoshi, from present-day Benin to Mobile.

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