Africatown Connections Blueway: Healing Begins by Reclaiming Our Heritage and Happiness

Preserving and making available the international historical significance of Africatown.

by Elizabeth Smith-Incer, Coordinator the Mississippi Field Office, National Park Service, Joe Womack, President, Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe & Sustainable Community, Inc.

Africatown, located in Mobile, Alabama, represents what is left of the community settled by Tarkbar captives brought to the United States from Africa by slave ship (The Clotilda), known as the last Slave Ship to arrive in the USA. Africatown is unique in that it represents a group of Africans who were forcefully removed from their homeland, sold into slavery, and then formed their own, largely self-governing community, all the while maintaining a strong sense of African cultural heritage.

By establishing the Africatown Connections Blueway, descendants of the original founders of Africatown, seek to re-connect their neighbors to the surrounding waterways from which they have been separated. Of primary importance is to preserve and make available the international historical significance of Africatown to communities across Alabama, the United States and the entire world in hopes of contributing to the healing process from the sadness that stems from long lost ties to Africa.

Learning Objectives:
  • Describe leveraging resources (techniques & organizations) to change public opinions related to paddling trails.
  • List important players/agencies to involve in the project planning process.
  • Utilize communication techniques that assist in the process of challenging conversations.

About the Authors

Elizabeth (Liz) Smith-Incer coordinates the Mississippi Field Office of the Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) of the National Park Service. In her work with RTCA, Ms. Smith-Incer contributes expertise in facilitation, public outreach and resource assessment to help achieve community-identified goals with local partners throughout the US and Puerto Rico.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, she relocated to Washington, DC to work at the United States Department of State, serving in the Office of International Environmental, Oceans & Scientific Affairs and the Office of Inter-American Affairs. From 1994 to 1998, Ms. Smith-Incer served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer working on environmental education and forestry issues in Nicaragua. After returning from Central America, Ms. Smith-Incer attended the University of Arizona where she earned a master’s degree of Public Administration with a concentration in Renewable Natural Resources.

Major Joe Womack, born in historic Africatown, Alabama, graduated from Mobile County Training School in 1968 (the first public high school for blacks in the state of Alabama). After earning a degree in Business Administration from Saint Paul's College, Major Womack served 20 years in the United States Marine Corps, leading operations in Japan, Korea, Pensacola, FL and New Orleans, LA. In addition to working 16 years at Shell/Dupont and being the first black professional to be promoted at that chemical facility, Major Womack has initiated many locally led efforts some include: Mobile County Training School Alumni Association, Africatown Development Corporation, Mobile County African American Summit, Black Military Workers of America, Inc., Mobile County Environmental Justice Action Coalition. Major Womack is an inspiring leader in promoting positive and sustainable change and currently leads a non-profit organization called C.H.E.S.S. or Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe & Sustainable Community, Inc.

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