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An Alabama Sampler

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Trace the history of the last American slave ship at a new exhibit

More than 50 years after the United States banned participation in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the schooner Clotilda trafficked men, women, and children from Benin in Africa to Mobile in 1860. The last known American slave ship, its scuttled remains were discovered and identified in 2019. In 2023, the story of the ship’s 110 prisoners will be brought to life when the Africatown Heritage House opens its doors, with artefacts from the ship and multisensory exhibit. Visitors will also be able to take a tour in Africatown with descendants sharing stories of their ancestors who survived enslavement and settled their community north of Mobile to preserve their African traditions. The Netflix documentary “Descendant” about the Clotilda survivors and their lineage in Africatown was released at the end of October. Travelers can view the National Geographic documentary “Clotilda: last American Slave Ship,” available on Disney Plus for a deeper look at the archaeological exploration of the ship.

Clotilda Mural in Africatown

Enjoy a foodie road trip for a real taste of the South

What’s the recipe for the perfect trip in 2023? Try a food and travel break, following the BBQ trail on Alabama’s smartphone app, which features everything from the Original Alabama White Sauce invented at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur to the special house slaw at Brooks Barbeque in Muscle Shoals (or, if you prefer a history lesson with a meal, visit Brenda’s Bar-B-Q Pit in west Montgomery). Brenda’s namesake and founder secretly tutored neighborhood residents to pass the literacy test, which was required for them to register to vote. Ask about the photo of her on the front lines of the Selma to Montgomery March. You can even take in gas pump pit stops along the road – fill the car up with petrol while you fill up your stomach at Butts To Go, at a Texaco garage in Pell City ( Hungry for more? There’s soul food and slow-cooked Southern dishes on the menu, seafood on the coast where you can catch your own supper, and a wine trail featuring six wineries (

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, photo by Art Meripol

Across the from the church, visit Kelly Ingram Park to honor the four little girls with its emotionally charged statue The Four Spirits. A phone guided tour can provide details about the Children’s March, commemorated by statues in and around the park.  Also visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to see the jail cell door from behind which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and to learn about the systems that created oppression and the people who broke the chains of segregation (

16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, photo by Chris Granger

April 23, 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of Rick Hall’s FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. The studios have attracted artists from Alabamian Wilson Pickett, who recorded “Mustang Sally”, Aretha Franklin and Etta James to Alicia Keys. A new behind-the-scenes tour takes visitors into Hall’s personal office and showcases his collection of instruments (