Being from Annapolis and having a love/hate relationship with its yacht-laden, downtown tourist district, you can't help but pass the Alex Haley sculpture and feel connected to a man's attempt at uncovering a history that is not easy to reclaim. Most of us have heard some component of the story of Alex Haley, author of Malcolm X’s Autobiography, and his contribution to the African American experience and popular culture through the book and television series Roots. What I had no idea about were the initial attempts to remove any traces of this original display. Following the notoriety of Roots and efforts by community members to memorialize the sacrifices of Kunta Kinte and so many other ancestors via the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a commemorative plaque was established at the end of 1981. The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley foundation references that “The Mayor at the time was quoted in the Washington Post opposing the idea, indicating that Kunta Kinte was not an Annapolitan”. This quote would act as a foreshadowing of the heinous act which would follow. Only 48 hours after its original placement, the commemorative plaque was stolen and all that remained when the police arrived was a calling card stating “You have been patronized by the KKK." Those familiar with the theft theorized that the plaque was thrown into the waters near the dock and divers would soon search the murky waters but recover nothing.
Fast forward to 2022 and technological advancements in underwater surveying allow us to get a glimpse underwater without the need for divers. Recent underwater archeology has revealed fascinating African American stories such as the Clotilda, the last slave ship to arrive in the U.S. Investigations into the part of the dock known as “Ego Alley” could reveal more information related to our history and assist with affirming Annapolis’ role in the institution of slavery. AFDF aspires to work in support of our community by leveraging expertise, such as archeology, to support our telling of our stories.