Matilda McCrear is a yoruba woman who is known as the last known living survivor in the United States of the transatlantic slave trade and the ship Clotilda.
Born around 1857 in the Yoruba region of present-day southwestern Nigeria, McCrear, along with her mother and older sister, were captured by the troops of the West African kingdom of Dahomey when she was only two years old. Separated from their homeland, they were thrust into the brutal machinery of the transatlantic slave trade, destined for a fate unknown.
Their journey led them to the infamous slave port of Ouidah, in present-day Benin—a gateway to a harrowing voyage across the Atlantic. It was here that they encountered the Clotilda, a ship infamous for its defiance of the 1807 Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. Under the command of Captain William Foster, the Clotilda, loaded 110 enslaved Africans including the young Matilda McCrear, and embarked on its illicit journey, to the shores of Mobile Bay, Alabama.
Arriving in the autumn of 1859 or on July 9, 1860, McCrear was thrust into the heart of America’s slave economy, sold once again and enslaved on the plantation of the Creagh family in Alabama where her owner renamed her Matilda Creagh.
Following the abolition of slavery in 1865, Creagh, later known as McCrear, persisted in laboring as a sharecropper on a plantation owned by her former master in Alabama alongside her relatives. They were permitted to cultivate small plots of land, and rather than paying rent in cash, they were obligated to provide a portion of the crop yield, referred to as shares, to their former masters.
Despite enduring trials, McCrear discovered love and motherhood, giving birth to 14 children with a white German-born man.
McCrear survived slavery and the imposition of Jim Crow laws during the post-Reconstruction era of disenfranchisement, and lived into the Great Depression.
In her seventies, she made a legal claim for compensation for her enslavement which was dismissed. She died in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama, aged 83. Her passing marked the end of an era, the last living link to a dark chapter in human history.