The transatlantic slave trade might seem like something from a distant and barbaric era – but a historian has found evidence its last survivor was alive in living memory.
Hannah Durkin, at Newcastle University, had previously identified the last surviving slave captured in Africa in the 19th Century and brought to United States as a woman called Redoshi Smith, who died in 1937.
But she has now discovered that another former slave, Matilda McCrear, had lived three years later.
Matilda died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940, at the age 83 – and her rebellious life story was the last living link with slaves abducted from Africa.
Her 83-year-old grandson, Johnny Crear, had no idea about his grandmother’s historic story.
In the 1960s, he had witnessed violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, where protesters had been addressed by Dr Martin Luther King.
On discovering his grandmother had been enslaved, he told BBC News: “I had a lot of mixed emotions.
“I thought if she hadn’t undergone what had happened, I wouldn’t be here.
“But that was followed by anger.”
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