Michael Cottman
Michael Cottman
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The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie: An African-American's Spiritual Journey to Uncover a Sunken Slave Ship's Past
ISBN: 0517703289
The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie
When prize-winning journalist and avid scuba diver Michael Cottman participated in an underwater expedition to survey the sunken wreck of a slave ship off the coast of Florida, he was overwhelmed by powerful feelings of kinship and oneness with his African ancestors. As he held in his hands the very shackles that once had bound men, women, and children in their tortured passage from their African homeland to America, Michael Cottman became determined to tell their stories and the story behind the ship that had carried them away from all they knew and loved. The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie is a fascinating look at one man's quest to reconstruct the journey of a British slave ship with all the detail and accuracy available to us at the end of the twentieth century.

The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie takes readers back three centuries and to three continents in order to trace the complex and moving story of the slaves and the slavers. We travel to England on the trail of the shipbuilders and the captain and his crew; to Goree Island, located off the westernmost extension of the African continent near Dakar, where the ship almost certainly sailed past and from which its enslaved passengers would have gotten their last view of their homeland; and to the Gulf of Mexico, where the Henrietta Marie sank without a trace—until its recent rediscovery gave us a tangible key to one of history's most terrible episodes. The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie is a powerful and compelling testament of one man's attempt to make sense of the history of his ancestors, chronicling his journey while confronting questions with no answers and striving for reconciliation with his homeland's past and his own country's future.

From The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie:When the ships dropped anchor, the African villagers, their curiosity aroused, approached the pale men with stringy hair who had rowed ashore. The seamen quickly overpowered at least a dozen people, loaded them into longboats and sailed away.

These strong-arm raids didn't last long. They ultimately evolved into the more routine capturing and trading for Africans, as Europeans were fast to establish a formal system by persuading some African kings and chiefs to capture their own people and sell them into slavery.

For long periods after the abductions, some of the children from the villages would climb the tallest trees to watch for the return of the great Portuguese ships that had snaked their way along the Rio Real—ships with long guns aimed at the shore; ships with tall sails that snapped in the breeze; dark ships that creaked in the tide; ships that brought chaos and fear and always left death in their wakes.

Calm would become only a memory for the people of the West African villages. Lives would be lost in the steady state of terror called slavery.

A life of peace had been stolen from these African families. Those taken were stripped of their titles, and even their names, snatched away from everything familiar. No one was safe from slavery--not the smallest children, not the mightiest warrior.

And so, the people of these villages along the west coast of Africa could only embrace their children, comfort each other, and wait for the ships to come.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie
Program Air Date: July 18, 1999

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Michael H. Cottman, author of "The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie," what is this ship all about?
MR. MICHAEL COTTMAN, AUTHOR, "THE WRECK OF THE HENRIETTA MARIE:" This--Brian, this is an extraordinary archaeological and historical discovery in America and, I--I dare say, throughout the world. This is the only slave ship in the world that's been scientifically documented, the only slave ship in the world where artifacts have been recovered and, more importantly, 7,000 artifacts were recovered from the ocean floor. And of those artifacts, more than 100 pair were from the slave ship called the Henrietta Marie. And it's the largest collection of slave ship shackles ever found on one site--on one ship. So this--this particular ship--this--Henrietta Marie, has an--just an incredible story to tell and a story that has not been told before.
LAMB: In the book you have a lot of pictures, and there's this one. Is this--are these your hands?
Mr. COTTMAN: Those are my hands. Absolutely.
LAMB: Where--where did you have that picture taken?
Mr. COTTMAN: That picture was taken in Key West, Florida, back in 1991 or 1992, and it was in a laboratory--upstairs laboratory of the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, and this is the organization that has overseen a lot of the excavation of the artifacts on this particular wreck site.
LAMB: Where is the wreck located now?
Mr. COTTMAN: The wreck's located 37 miles west of Key West, Florida, in about thirty feet of water on an area--on a reef called New Ground Reef. And we can talk a little bit about it later, but it makes a really incredible place to dive because it's such a shallow site. So divers and underwater archaeologists can actually work this site for hours and hours at a time without worrying about decompression sickness.
LAMB: How many times have you dived?
Mr. COTTMAN: More than two dozen.
LAMB: On that site?
Mr. COTTMAN: On that site.
LAMB: When did all this start for you?
Mr. COTTMAN: This started back in the early '90s. The--the ship, in fact, was discovered in 1972 by divers working with the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, and this is the organization that helped me out tremendously with the research and actually set the stage for the discovery of the ship. But the person who--one of the people who located the ship is in the book, and his name is Moe Molinar. And he's Panamanian. He's just a footnote here. Moe Molinar is probably one of the--the only successful underwater treasure hunters of African descent that--that we know of, and he's probably a story in his--in himself.

But Moe was looking for--and a group of divers with the Mel--Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society back in the '70s were looking for a ship called the Hitocha. The Hitocha at that time, they later discovered, had about $400 million worth of emeralds and silver coins on board. As Moe was under water sifting through sand looking for glitter on the ocean floor, he discovered these encrusted shackles on the--on the--the ocean floor, and he began to--to look at them and--and he knew that these were shackles that were used to bind wrists much like his own. But he didn't know the name of the wreck. They didn't know anything. They just knew that he had discovered some shackles, and he was compelled by it because it was just such a--an unusual discovery for him. He's found countless treasure on treasure ships, but this was an unusual discovery for him.

So he put it in his dive belt, they took it to a warehouse where they sat for years. And in 1982 they went back out--a group of divers went back out and they discovered the ship's bell, which said Henrietta Marie on it. On the back, 1699. And it was a blueprint for us to start our research in London to try to piece together this trans-Atlantic puzzle. This--this bell served as--what it's like--a black box in an aircraft when a--when a--when an airplane crashes, and they look for that black box to--to try to give them an idea of some of the last words or conversations from the pilot or--to the--to the tower. And this gave us a blueprint right back to London to start this research.
LAMB: National Black Scuba Divers Association?
Mr. COTTMAN: Yup, and there are more than five of us. Yes, National Association of Black Scuba Divers. We're an...
LAMB: Called NABS?
Mr. COTTMAN: NABS, that's right. We're in our 10th year. It's an offshoot of an organization called the Underwater Adventure Seekers that's based right here in Washington, DC, which is more than 40--about 40 years old. And we come together to network, but we--we never knew that recreational diving was gonna turn into this dive into our past and an opportunity to learn more about the slave trade and to learn more about a particular slave ship. So this was--I happened to become a scuba diver about 10 years ago, but I--I got into scuba diving just to see some fish. I never knew that it was gonna lead me into under--underwater archaeology and, again, the discovery of something so historically and--historically profound.
LAMB: Now you mentioned, in the beginning of the book, a television show, "Sea Hunt"? What year did you start watching that? And what impact did that have on you?
Mr. COTTMAN: This had to be back in the late '60s. And I was a youngster and I used to sit in front of this grainy black and white Zenith television watching Lloyd Bridges squeeze into this black wetsuit and strap on these two scuba tanks and dive into the ocean and explore this--this vast world under--under water. And I used to tell my mother at that time that I wanted to learn to scuba dive. And she probably thought that I had an overactive imagination because during that time I was growing up in Detroit, and the last thing coming out of the mouths of little black boys from Detroit was scuba diving. You know, we played basketball and football and, you know, some played a little soccer and--and hockey. And I told her that this was something I really wanted to do. And she says, `Look, you can set your mind--whatever you want to do you can set your mind to do and you can do it.'

She could not teach me how to scuba dive, but she taught me the next best thing and that was how to swim. So she took me to the YMCA--YWCA, I guess, back then and threw me in the water and I learned to swim. But I never forgot that I wanted to learn to dive, so what she began to do is she began to take me to aquariums around the country when we traveled. We'd jump in a car and go on a vacation, and she'd take me to all these aquariums and we'd learn about marine life. And--and it was then that she decided that, you know, `I would try to find a way to teach you to scuba dive.'

So I went to a summer camp once that was a horseback riding and a water sports camp. And part of the--part of the water sports was scuba diving. This was some little junior certification card. You basically just put the regulator in your mouth, breathe under water and come out and you've got a great sense of accomplishment that you've done something. And they give you a little junior certification card, and I guess I was maybe 12 or 13 then and that was my first introduction to scuba diving.
LAMB: How long did you live in Detroit?
Mr. COTTMAN: I lived in Detroit for 18 years and then left to go to college in Atlanta.
LAMB: You write about the 1967 riots in Detroit. What impact did--how old were you, first of all? And what impact did they have on you?
Mr. COTTMAN: I was about nine or 10 years old, and I remember leaving our church. Our church was called St. Mark's Community Church on 12th Street in Atkinson, and that was the heart of where the riots took place. And I remember just stepping outside the church. We were on our way--actually, we were on our way in, and we saw the smoke and there's--there were police cars and I think a helicopter or something criss-crossing the sky. And it--my father decided that we were gonna stay in church that day instead of leaving and--and pray and pray for the future of the city, pray for our neighbors and pray for ourselves. And we decided to stay and we stayed for maybe an hour. It was an abbreviated service. Probably more like 30, 45 minutes.

And we came out and I just remember my eyes stinging from the smoke and holding my mother's hand and my father disappearing into this wall of smoke to go get the car. And he was probably gone maybe 10 minutes to get the car, but it seemed like hours. And I can hear gunshots in the distance, and I thought that, you know, `This is the last time I'm gonna see my dad.' It was a very emotional moment for me just as a--as a youngster to be involved in that.

But we went home and my father began to explain why these--why this urban rebellion was taking place. And what I didn't know that during that time, and I write, that here are these black scuba divers, unbeknownst to me, during that year who were in Grand Cayman, you know, forging this historical opportunity of their own, getting into a world of scuba diving industry that did not necessarily embrace African-Americans during that time. And to--to this day, we're still only a couple of percent--I think maybe 1 percent of the--of the industry.
LAMB: How long have you worked at The Washington Post?
Mr. COTTMAN: I've been there for one year.
LAMB: Prior to that?
Mr. COTTMAN: Prior to that I was New York Newsday for 10 years, where I was a political writer, covered the first term of David Dinkins--first and only term of David Dinkins, who was New York City's first African-American mayor. And--and then I took three years off to write the--the book, "The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie." It began, actually, as a leave of absence. But because this was such a complex book--it involved a lot of travel. It was a series, Brian, of predestined forks in the road. I was originally supposed to go down to Key West and kind of gather some material and try to write a shorter book. But Key West led me to London. London led me to the West Coast of Africa, the West Coast of Africa through the Caribbean.

And I had a wonderful publisher and a wonderful editor, Shay Earhardt, and a wonderful literary agent in Marie Brown, who just said, `Let's take our time and do this right. You're not gonna get another shot at it. And we're not gonna rush you through this process because we want it done right, and we realize that it's--it's complex and that there are a lot of--a lot of--a lot of doors to walk through and a lot of loops to tie. And let's try to tie up as--as many of these loops as possible in this history--history that hasn't been told before.'

And as journalists--and you know this, too, we--we seldom get an opportunity to tell first. And that's what--that was exciting to me, to be able to actually research a story about a slave ship that had not been told before like this. And it was just a wonderful opportunity.
LAMB: You have a picture in the book, the last of a number of pictures, of this young lady. Who is it?
Mr. COTTMAN: This is my daughter, Ariane, who just turned two. We were a little ahead of ourselves in the--in the cut line there. When I wrote it she was about 13--13 months. She's two years old and I'm introducing her to water, and we just came back from Bermuda where she went under water for the first time in--in a little pool. She holds her nose and goes down, says, `Daddy under water.' And so it's important for--it's important for her to--to read this book in--in later years as she gets older to--to learn about our history. And this is an international story. It's not a story just for African-American people. It's a story I think that everybody can and--and should embrace. It's a story about--about an important and probably underdiscussed and underresearched part of our history.
LAMB: You quote in the book--well, you--you talk about yourself, and you also quote other black men, usually, and their feelings about racial matters. Let me just read back to you what you wrote: `White women have clutched their purses and pulled their children close when I stepped onto elevators. I have been followed by store security guards for no reason. I've been mistaken for a liquor store thief in Detroit. I've been refused service at a gas station. I've been run off the road in Louisiana by white men screaming "Nigger" from a pickup truck. I've had a man in Manhattan hand me his parking lot ticket assuming that I was a garage attendant as I waited for my own car to be delivered. And I've been asked to leave a restaurant in Georgia because the owner feared for my safety.' Are there--are there a lot more of those or is, you know--and how--how--how difficult is it today with race relations from what--the way you see things?
Mr. COTTMAN: I think that--yes, I mean, there are probably more. I only listed a few. What I decided to do--what we decided. I didn't want to beat readers over the head with this, but I wanted people to understand my background, the kinds of incidents and the kinds of situations that I've been confronted with through the years.

Does racism and discrimination still permeate our society? Of course it does. Have we come a long way? I--I think--I think we have. One of the things about this--this book that I think is--is very important and something that hasn't been told before, and this is why I talk about it, this is a book that I think all people can embrace, and--and, indeed, they have. My book signings now have become probably a third or maybe close to half of the people in the audience are white. I'm--I'm happy about that.

This is a partnership, by the way, that we forged with the National Association of Black Scuba Divers and the underwater archaeologists in Key West who happen to be white. This is an unprecedented union of people who came together to excavate and to examine a slave ship. I mean, this has never been done before. Whites and blacks coming together to talk is one thing at a table. But slavery conjures these visceral reactions in people, black and white. So it's difficult enough, Brian, just to have a discussion about slavery, about race relations.

It's even more complex and more challenging to be on a ship with whites and blacks--on a boat, excuse me--whites and blacks discovering and excavating and examining a slave ship because when we're out on a boat at one point to do this--again, this is 37 miles off--off the shore. And it--it's not the kind of distance where you can come back and forth. So what we did was we stayed on the boat. So we're there for maybe three, four, five days in a row working the site and examining it. And we come back on the boat and you can't go anywhere. You know, there's nowhere to go, so you have to talk. And, in fact, what we realized was this--the ship, the Henrietta Marie, became this experiment on race.

When--when President Clinton talked about this--created this Commission on Race and wanted to create this national dialogue and, you know, he talked about feelings should be rubbed raw if you're honest, I don't know what we can ever use for a barometer to decide whether it was successful or not. The impeachment hearings overshadowed much of it. It think in some ways he was probably discredited.

But what I do know is--is that we need a mechanism or some type of vehicle to bring to the table for us just to begin the discussion. And for us, that vehicle and that mechanism, for the white divers and the African-American divers, happened to be this slave ship. And America has to find more vehicles like that, and we stumbled across this or--or we were guided to it, what--however you des--decide to describe it. And I'm not saying that we solved all the--you know, the world's problems, you know, aboard one boat searching for the slave ship. But what we did do was--we have a common denominator, and--and we found out that we had a common passion. And--and that was--that was important, and that's why this--this is a book that I think can be embraced by many people in America, re--regardless of your ethnic or--or cultural backgrounds.
LAMB: What is this drawing in the book?
Mr. COTTMAN: That's--that's a--it's--it's a very powerful drawing, and it--it--what it--what it shows is the way African men, women and children were systematically packed into the hull of slave ships. And the idea was, of course, to try to pack as many people in to make that trans-Atlantic voyage, to make that--actually, that voyage from Africa to the West Indies to unload African people. And the more people that they packed in there, the greater the profits.
LAMB: What's the schematic above it?
Mr. COTTMAN: The schematic above it on--on the left is the way the Henrietta Marie probably looked. So that's a--that's a drawing, a re-creation, of what the Henrietta Marie looked and how African people were packed into the hull of the Henrietta Marie specifically.
LAMB: When was the Henrietta Marie built?
Mr. COTTMAN: It was built in, we believe, the early 1600s or so, mid-1600s. It was a prize--actually, we believe it was a French ship that was a prize to the British because it actually sailed under the--the British flag and sailed from 1699 to 17--1697 to 1700.
LAMB: Where did it--where did it steam from? Where--ac--ac--actually, where was it physically built?
Mr. COTTMAN: It was physically built, we believe--we're not sure--but somewhere in France. And not exactly sure. But we pick...
LAMB: But it didn't steam, did it?
Mr. COTTMAN: No, no, absolutely not.
LAMB: How long was it?
Mr. COTTMAN: It was 80 feet long and weighed about 120 tons.
LAMB: And what was its purpose?
Mr. COTTMAN: Its purpose originally was to--oh, its purpose actually was--was--was slaving. It turned into a slave ship as far as we can trace it back in 1697 when it sailed out of the Thames River into the English Channel and into the Atlantic. And we discovered there was a historian by the name of Nigel Tattersfield who worked for the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, and he started a lot of this research that we built on. And--but through that research we were able to find the names of the three ship captains. We were able to identify about 20 crew members on board the vessel. Again, the ship sailed out of--sailed out of London. From London it sailed to a place called Calabar, which is now southeast Nigeria.

That's where it began to--the captains traded with African kings and chiefs for African people. And they traded with some of the trade beads that were actually found on the--on--on the wreck site. So among the 7,000 artifacts that were recovered, several--maybe a couple thousand were--were trade beads. These were beads that were made in Venice that were glass, all different colors, all different shapes and sizes. And these beads meant different things to African chiefs and kings. Some thought that they brought spiritual power. Some chiefs and kings thought it--it brought great social status. And some just liked the way they look and figured that it would adorn their--their--their bodies or their--their wrists or their--their necks with--with necklaces. So there were a number of beads that were still recovered on the site that you can still find today.
LAMB: How many trips did the Henrietta Marie make?
Mr. COTTMAN: We can--we can say with certainty that we know that it made two trans-Atlantic voyages. The first one, it--it ended up in Barbados where it sold--the captain sold several hundred African people at public auction. And the last trip that we can verify ended in Port Royal, Jamaica, in May of 1700, where it unloaded 190 African-Ameri--African men and women and 40 children, I might add, and to try to make a run back to London to replenish supplies, re-outfit the ship and then go back to West Africa. But it sank in a hurricane and was blown severely off course. It tried to drop three of its anchors and ride out the storm. They were unsuccessful in that, of course, and it was broken apart in pieces and splintered and crashed in an area called New Ground Reef.
LAMB: And this picture right here on top?
Mr. COTTMAN: This picture on top is a picture of Colon Fuller, who we believe is a descendent of the Henrietta Marie. In fact, we discovered in London--we discovered a--we--we got in--we got into a Jeep, Brian, and just drove across the countryside of England looking for a place called Stream Mill. Stream Mill is where we believe that the cannons were manufactured, and the family that manufactured these co--cannons, we believe, for the Henrietta Marie was a family known as the Fuller family. And we'd drive the countryside and we're looking through--through maps trying to find Stream Mill on the map, and we eventually find it. And it's a stone house and a very nice property and we see the--the stream in the background, and we've got books that have drawings of how this--this stream mill would have looked in the 1700s.

So we knock on the door and we tell this woman who answers the door, whose name was Marilyn Ambrosniak, that, `We're scholars and writers and we're retracing the history of a slave ship, and part of our hist--part of our travels led us to your back yard. Can we come in?' And she says yes. She shows us around. She knew the foundry. She knew the history of her property, that the cannons were manufactured there, that the Fuller family owned the property. But she didn't know anything about the Henrietta Marie, but she knew everything about the foundry. We later learned through our research that the Fullers owned a plantation in Jamaica, and that not only did they--they amassed great wealth in making cannons and making pistols and rifles for the Army and Navy, but they also made cannons and weaponry for slave ships and that they owned property in Jamaica which we--we found out later was a--was a plantation.

So we--I packed up. We traveled to Jamaica and we began to look at maps and--and go through research and captains logs and we find the estate that we believe the Fullers owned called the Knollis Estate. And, again, we knock on the door and--writers, scholars and--and journalists and we're researching the Henrietta Marie. And this lovely couple comes to the door, and their name was the Mairs, M-A-I-R-S. And they invite me in, and they start showing me their--their property, and they--they knew that this was the probably largest parcel of the Knollis Estate that exists, and it was 18 1/2 acres.

And they talked about their father, who bought the property years and years ago, and his name was Howard, and my father's name is Howard and my middle name is Howard. Their son was named Michael--is named Michael and I'm Michael. And their son's daughter was named Michaela, and she was born around the time my father--my daughter was. And we talked about these connections and how you end up at certain places and how you're guided to certain--certain destinations, and we just had a wonderful conversation. And they said, `You may want to talk to some other people who know this property better than us.' And they said you want to talk to some of the Fullers. And I'm thinking, `Boy, the Fullers as in European Fullers?' And they said, `No, as in black Jamaican Fullers.'

And as it turns out, years ago the--the way it worked--and you know this--that the Europeans gave their last names to the African people who worked their property. And as it turns out, a number of these African people over the years never moved and they--they built communities. So for generations and enerations and generations the Fullers have worked that property on that Knollis Estate, and even though the Fullers didn't know the Henrietta Marie, they knew what their forefathers have done for years, and that's to work that estate. And so we believe through that and a lot of our research that these were some of the descendants. So that was just a pivotal breakthrough for us in this research.
LAMB: Go back over the number of places that you went in your research. You mentioned London and outside of London.
Mr. COTTMAN: Mm-hmm. Started London and then outside of London. And that led us to--to West Africa. We spent a great deal of time back and forth between London--well, the United States and Goree Island, which is off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. This is where we believe the Henrietta Marie also docked to repair--to repair the ship. And then we traveled to Jamaica and Barbados, made several trips to Jamaica and at least one or two to Barbados, and then countless trips back and forth to Key West to dive on site of the--of the wreckage.
LAMB: By the way, how many times have you--how many dives have you made in your life, altogether?
Mr. COTTMAN: Altogether, 221.
LAMB: Is it an expensive hobby?
Mr. COTTMAN: It can be because, first of all, you have to--where we live, unfortunately--I have to--here in Washington--I have to get on aircraft to--to do this hobby. I envy my friends who live in Miami, you know, or on the West Coast, even in Los Angeles, even though that's cold-water diving. But, yeah, so you--you--it costs about $1,000 to--to get all your equipment.
LAMB: To buy it all?
Mr. COTTMAN: To buy it all. It--it costs approximately $200 to $300 to--or $400 to learn how to dive. And then you have to travel.
LAMB: Who are these folks?
Mr. COTTMAN: This is the--the person with the tam who I tease and s--said he looks a little like--well, like a militant from the '60s, is, in fact, Jose Jones, Dr. Jose Jones, who is a PhD and founder of the Underwater Adventure Seekers and president of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers who created--actually established the marine science curriculum at the University of the District of Columbia some years ago.
LAMB: Who's the lady?
Mr. COTTMAN: And she is Shirley Lee. She is the first woman, African-American woman, scuba diver to join the Black Scuba Divers back in the 1950s.
LAMB: Now is it true that in order for you to allow her or the group allow her to belong, that you asked her to have a letter from her husband?
Mr. COTTMAN: OK. Let me clear this up. This was in the '50s, all right?
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. COTTMAN: OK. I was probably one then, so I didn't have anything to do with that, all right? But, yes...
LAMB: By the way, when--where was that photo from? What year was that taken?
Mr. COTTMAN: That was 19--the mid-1950s.
LAMB: OK.
Mr. COTTMAN: And--or late 1950s, I'm sorry. They--that, in fact, she told me that. She said that she had to--the pres--Dr. Jones and a few other people--men said, `Look, you know, we've never had women in our club before. And we don't know how to handle this. This is new to us. So we're gonna have to ask you to get a letter from your husband in order for you to join the club.' And, hey, it's a true story. Nothing they're probably very proud of today, but he enthusiastically writes this letter and she subsequently joins the club and turned out to be one of the best divers that they've had.
LAMB: Again, how many black scuba divers are there in the United States?
Mr. COTTMAN: Probably about, we think--on our mailing list, maybe 3,000. But we believe there are more because now that people found out about the organization, there are people from all over the country now writing Dr. Jones and sending letters in and asking how they can be a part of the group.
LAMB: How many of those are women?
Mr. COTTMAN: Fifty percent now.
LAMB: Fifty percent scuba divers.
Mr. COTTMAN: Fifty percent. Half--half the organization is now women.
LAMB: And where is the organization headquartered?
Mr. COTTMAN: It's based here in Washington, DC.
LAMB: What does the organization do?
Mr. COTTMAN: We get together, we network with other divers. We try to promote underwater safety. We try to--we talk a lot about the environment and preserving the coral. We do a lot of shark dives to--to teach young divers that all sharks aren't man-eating creatures; that every dive's a shark dive, you're bound to see one; that they're not gonna just come up to you and start chewing on you. And we try to go to schools. We go to schools and we talk to young people about marine science, about marine biology, about oceanography as a career and try to get them in the water and teach them about a sport that you will probably not encounter in--in the inner city.
LAMB: When you dive, how long can you stay underwater?
Mr. COTTMAN: It--it depends on the depth. The deeper you dive, the--the less time you can stay underwater. Usually, a 40- to 50-foot dive, for instance, at 50 feet you could probably stay about 35, 40--40 minutes.
LAMB: Have you ever come close to having an accident when you dive?
Mr. COTTMAN: I have not yet. I have not. Fortunately and thank God, no.
LAMB: What was your reaction the first time you came upon anything in the water that had to do with the slave ship?
Mr. COTTMAN: And incredibly gut-wrenching em--em--emotional experience for me. In--in fact, I--yeah, I'll answer that question by telling you a couple of things. We--the National Association of Black Scuba Divers and David Moore and a number of archaeologists who--who helped us with this project, white and black, decided that we wanted to honor and commemorate the African men, women and children who lost their lives during the Middle Passage and who lost their lives on this ship, the Henrietta Marie.

So we decided to--to lay a monument on the ocean floor, a one-ton concrete monument with a bronze inscription to, again, commemorate the loss of life aboard the slave ship and abo--and during the Middle Passage. And it was during that time when some of the people who you see in this picture, who I've been diving with, they still consider me a neophyte. I'm a--I'm a rookie here. These--these men and some--some women, especially some of the older men, older than myself, have had a lot of challenges with the ocean, a lot of challenges with the sea. Some of them are military divers. I'm--I've only been diving about 10 years so they still consider me a rookie.

But these are guys who are prepared for anty--any encounter and any experience in the ocean. But what they could not prepare for, I don't think, emotionally or spiritually was what they were gonna feel laying this monument on this wreckage of this slave ship. And when you run your hands underwater as I have on this wreck and uncovered trade beads--when you run your hands underwater on this site and--and--and raise planks of wood that once made up the hull of this vessel that carried these African people into slavery, there were--you look through tempered mask--look through tempered glass of the mask underwater and you're looking at other divers. And I'm--I'm looking at tears in--in the eyes of some of these divers and some of these men who are the most stoic individuals that--that I've seen in my life, who succumb to this emotion and rush of emotion, being on the--on the wreck of this--of this site.

So it was indeed a--just a--a phenomenal opportunity to be a part of this examination of--of this ship, but it was also, and I--I write in here, a spiritual aspect to it as well just being bathed and baptized in the waters where so--so many atrocities took place and to be around so many other men who I respect in the dive industry and watch how they handled this rush--again, rush of emotion that they experienced.
LAMB: What's the story about the man you met from--white man you met from Houston?
Mr. COTTMAN: Oh, the--that was in Dakar-Senegal when I was researching in Africa. And he was--he worked for an oil company, and he was drilling for oil in--in Africa. And I was at the--at the bar and just having a beer, relaxing at the end of the day, and he wanted to know what I did. And I told him what I was working on, and he told me what he did for a living. And he begins to, in--in fact, just lecture me on how I should write this book. And he tells me--he says, `Well, you know, your people sold your people into slavery.' And I said, `I'm aware of that.' And he says, `Well, you need to write that.' And my only response to him was, you know, `I won't tell you how to drill for oil, you don't tell me how to write my book.'

And, in fact, he was right, and--and there's no question about it. And there's nothing that I tried to--to hide in the book. I wrote that. But at the time--I had just returned--just to give you some--some context, I had just returned from Goree Island and this was the infamous slave port where so many African men, women and children were detained in these stone pits with little food and little water, waiting to be hauled in slave ships into the New World. Now I had just came back from this, you know, pretty gut-wrenching experience, and then I encounter this gentleman from--from--from Houston. So even though he was correct, I just didn't feel at the time that--I didn't want to be--be lectured.
LAMB: What's this picture right here?
Mr. COTTMAN: That's a picture of--of a--a stone pit in Goree Island where some of the men who would not conform to--to slavery and being incarcerated were taken for--for weeks at a time to--without food and water and...
LAMB: Where are you standing there in the...
Mr. COTTMAN: ...until they broke.
LAMB: ...other picture?
Mr. COTTMAN: That's upstairs in the slave house. The...
LAMB: No, I'm talking about right here.
Mr. COTTMAN: Right, exactly. That's upstairs in the Slav...
LAMB: What are you looking out...
Mr. COTTMAN: I'm looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. I'm looking down over a place called the Door of No Return where the slave ships would pull up to the back of the--the slave house.
LAMB: And above that? Those two pictures?
Mr. COTTMAN: Above is the--the Door of No Return, and they call it the No--the Door of No Return because that was the door where African people were led through to be taken onto dinghies and then--loaded onto dinghies and then taking lo--they call them long boats--and then taken to the slave ships. And it was the last time that African people would see their families again, so generations of families were separated through that door called the Door of No Return, and it was the last time that our--that African people would see their homeland.
LAMB: And who are you talking to, the gentleman there in the doorway?
Mr. COTTMAN: I'm talking to Joseph N'Diaye, who's the curator for the Slave House, and he says that the mandatory retirement age in Senagal as a government worker, as he is--a curator--is 55, and he's 73. He's been around.
LAMB: Now how many slaves were sold that you know of during the period in which they were moving from Africa to the--over in this part of the world?
Mr. COTTMAN: Right. I'm telling you, it really depends on who you talk to. You can talk to historians that say anywhere from six to 10, and you can talk to people that say 10 to 30. And all I can say and I've written a few in the book and I try to attribute it, and I'll just say millions, just mil--millions, just generations of--of African people were sold into slavery.
LAMB: How many died on their way over to this country?
Mr. COTTMAN: Millions. We--we think that in Senagal alone along Goree Island, they think that up to six million died at Goree Island.
LAMB: And Goree Island was in the news not too long ago when President Clinton went there.
Mr. COTTMAN: That's absolutely right.
LAMB: And what was his reason for going there?
Mr. COTTMAN: His reason was he wanted to call attention to the--the plight of Africa. He wanted to call the attention to the fact that Africa has great resources, that Africa has been overlooked and ignored by the United States financially for years. America's given a--a great deal of money to--to other countries and other nations, but Africa has been treated like a--like a stepchild. He is the first--was the first president, in fact, to visit Goree Island and was the first president--American president to stand at a--a former slave port and talk about the--the atrocities of slavery. And he stopped short of an apology for slavery, but discussed it in--in a way that's never been talked about before by an America president. And so I think he--for--for that week or two, he put Africa in a different context, I think, for America.
LAMB: On page 209 you write some things about the way you personally feel about being a journalist and covering these issues. You say, `For the four African-American White House correspondents covering Clinton's visit to Africa, their self-initiated 10-minute service signaled a retreat from traditional journalism's coverage of an international political event.' What were you talking about?
Mr. COTTMAN: Mm-hmm. These were four--I was not a part of that. This was a--a group of four African-American journalists who are White House correspondents who cover President Clinton on a regular basis. And they decided that they were going to walk to the edge of the shore in front of the slave house. I think they had a--a container of water that they poured over--over rocks--of--of--I'm sorry, a container of ocean water. And they had a--they had a brief ceremony. And I talk about at--at times that maybe we need to step back and just reflect on some of the issues that we're covering. And we are often detached, and that's the way we have to be and we're objective. But this was a--a group of people who decided that this was such a rare opportunity to remember where they came from and remember their roots and call attention to it that they felt they wanted to have a private ceremony.

And I commended them for that because a--a lot of times--in most cases, we don't take--take--take a pause--we don't pause to reflect on exactly how we ended up in the position that--that we are today and--and who our forefathers were and--and how it was so remarkable that--that we're succeeding and--in this world today because our--our ancestors, you know, were--were separated--families separated and--and killed and murdered for years.
LAMB: Where are your ancestors from?
Mr. COTTMAN: That's--I write that in the book, I'm not sure. I can trace as far back as maybe Indianapolis, but, you know, because Africa is such an enormous continent--there was a--a little girl who once asked a--a minister who I was traveling with in Namibia, `Where your--where--who are your people and what is your tribe?' And the--the minister--unfortunately he could only say Baltimore, and--and--and she wanted an answer and she--she was only 11 years old--11 or 12 years--she wanted an answer. `Who are your people and what is your tribe?' And he couldn't answer that. And I--I write the story about how--how frustrating it is--I write in the book how frustrating it is not to be able to say where your ancestors are from. I can't even pin down a--a country in this enormous continent called Africa, let alone a village. And so I--I--Brian, I don't know.
LAMB: Do you have any sense from the way you look as to what possible part of the--Africa you might be from?
Mr. COTTMAN: May--maybe the west coast. I mean, I--I'm sure the west coast of Africa, possibly I--I'm thinking, you know, maybe Senagal, you know, may--maybe Ghana. And I only say that because in Senagal, people come up to me and ask me am I Senagalese. And people will talk to me and they come over to me and say, `You look like my cousin or you look like my brother or you resemble so-and-so.' It happens every time I go, and--and people embrace me. And they find out I'm American and they say, `You've got--you've got roots here. You know, there's something here and obviously you--you've come back for something.'

And--in fact, in the Door of No Return, the--Mr. N'Diaye stopped a group of French tourists and began to talk to them in French--and my French is very rusty. And they came over to me--the French tourists--and they began to shake my hand and nod and pat me on the--on the shoulder. What he later told them was that he's thinking about no longer calling this the Door of No Return because as African-American people return to Africa to reclaim our history and reclaim our roots, that we, in fact, have returned. And he told them that as these French tourists were walking through, and the French tourists were embracing this, too, because remember slavery was a combination of the British and the Dutch and the Portuguese and--and the French all conspiring slavery on African people. So there are--are--you--you walk into this slave house and you'll see everybody. You'll see British and you'll see Portuguese and you'll see French and you'll see Dutch. And it's an interesting union of people who are coming together to learn about this--this subject called--called slavery.

But--but again, I think the phenomenal thing of--of putting this--this book together is the fact that it was done with--in large part, with research from African-Americans and whites who came together to--to help analyze and better understand the slave trade, to better understand slavery and to better understand ourselves.
LAMB: Who's the gentleman with the glass in his hand?
Mr. COTTMAN: The gentleman with the glass in his hand is a good friend of mine, Oswald Sykes, who's one of the--one of the--one of the divers, who was my dive buddy when we laid the--the monument into the ocean. And, in fact, Oswald became so emotional, I write about that he was rubbing the--the inscription on the monument like he was stroking the face of an old friend. He became literally paralyzed and he--he couldn't move. And we--we helped him up and I thought something was wrong with his gear, and I thought something had happened to him underwater that was related to scuba diving. And, in fact, something had happened to him underwater. It wasn't related to scuba diving, but it was related to being on the site of this--of this slave ship.

I later found out that his father had drowned in the Potomac in--in the '50s, and he had never come to grips with the fact that his father had drowned and he was not there to save him. And he always thought that if he was there and--he was a water safety instructor also--and that he was there, he would've saved his dad. And he said he never came to grips with that. He talked to me about how this slave ship and this ocean unlocked a--a key, unlocked something inside him. It was like a key that unlocked this--these emotions that he had never dealt with before. And during that time when he was diving on this ship and we were laying this monument, that--that's what he was experiencing on that site, thinking about his--his father drowning. And he just became so overcome with emotion, we had to actually lift him--help him out of the water. And I didn't know this until we went--on the way back.
LAMB: Are your parents still alive?
Mr. COTTMAN: My parents are still alive.
LAMB: Their names?
Mr. COTTMAN: Howard and Roberta Cottman and...
LAMB: Where do they live?
Mr. COTTMAN: They live in Detroit, Michigan, and they're back and forth a lot probably to visit their granddaughter more than--more than me. But in any case, these are two people who--I mentioned before, my fa--my mother taught me to swim. My father would drop me off at libraries and just say, `There's a whole world out here and I want...'
LAMB: What did they do...
Mr. COTTMAN: `..want you to read.'
LAMB: ...for a living?
Mr. COTTMAN: My father was a--a marketing and advertising executive, and my mother was a professor at Wayne State University--a college professor.
LAMB: Now sprinkled through this book are references to the fact that there is--I don't know if it's a myth or--how you describe it, that black people don't swim.
Mr. COTTMAN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
LAMB: What's that all about?
Mr. COTTMAN: Yeah. The--this goes back to the '50s and '60s when people told me that on the more affluent sides of town there were swimming pools and on black sides of towns, in some cases, there were not. So that there were a--a number of--of African-American people in the country who never learned to swim, and there are some people who just don't want to have anything to do with water.

Now there are people who tell me that this has a lot to do with--this is just a--a theory--it has a lot to do with slavery. And I've got one friend who told me that she's still seasick from slavery and she doesn't like the ocean because of what it represents.

I think we have an incredible connection with the water, and that's something I write about--about, too. The--the--we were a people--African people--who were actually born on the water. We were born on the ocean. We--we had to--we were forced to cross this--this--this great divide. And--and--and to this day I think that because the National Association of Black Scuba Divers and--and--you know, what we're doing now is not only are we dispelling myths that--that we don't swim, but we're, in fact, diving again into the past but also coming to grips with how we, as a people, started in the first place. We're exploring this vast ocean, an ocean where we were forced to cross 300 years ago to come to this new world in the first place.
LAMB: You also describe what's it's like to dive with--in the buddy system, and you once went with a white man as your buddy and it didn't work out so well. Explain that feeling you have.
Mr. COTTMAN: Yeah. That was--somebody once asked Dr. Jones, who's the president of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, what--you know, `Why do you have to have a black group?' And his response always is, `Well, why not? We look out for each other.' That's not to say--and I also want to say that we have white and we have Latino members of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, and we have divers who are white who come to dive with us very, very often. So it's not--it's not--it's a--an organization that started as African-Americans, but we embrace everyone. And, in fact, we have diversity in our--in our--our membership.

But to answer your question, I was in St. Petersburg and I was on a dive boat and I was on my way out and this--I just started diving. This was--you know, this was probably 1990, 1991. And I'm on the boat and the buddy system, of course, is the first rule--one of the most important rules of diving. You don't dive alone. You--you buddy up to make sure that somebody's watching your back and you're watching somebody else's back and try to dive--try to, you know, stay within arm's length of each other.

And the captain looked around the boat and just po--posed the question, `Does everybody has a buddy?' And everybody had a buddy except me, and there are times where you go in threes. And he wanted to know did somebody want to take me out with--with them because I was--I was the loner. And I write that eyes looked everywhere. They looked up, they looked down, they looked out at sea, everywhere but me. And I felt like the kid on the sandlot, you know, who didn't get picked for the basketball game. And I didn't know whether people thought that I was gonna put their lives in jeopardy because they didn't think I was a good scuba diver or--or what. I didn't know what to make of it, but I was trying not to make it race because I was thinking maybe this is just personalities. But it just became clear to me that I just wasn't embraced with the same type of enthusiasm that other people on--on the boat had been embraced.

And one gentleman, also I believe who's from Texas, said, `Let's go dive together,' and--and we did and he partnered with me, but it was a different kind of experience. And usually, you know, you--I'm diving with a buddy and we stop and we explore marine life and we kind of acknowledge it and--through hand signals or write on an underwater slate. And I write about that we were un--underwater together, but we were still worlds apart; that I didn't feel that we were actually dive buddies but just two people who happened to be in the same ocean.
LAMB: And you also tell a story about being at a dinner party where you're one of two blacks in a--a mixed group and their reaction when the whole idea came up of being a black scuba diver.
Mr. COTTMAN: Yeah, a black scuba diver and--and the--and the slave ship was--I could clear--I could really clear a room. Nobody really wanted to--to talk about slavery. It was a--a discussion that's--I talk about it's a conversation killer, that a lot of people just don't want to be introduced to this horrific atrocities. And there--there are whites at some point--down in Richmond, Virginia, for instance, was a--a very, very great group of people. The Junior League of Richmond, which is predominantly white, ve--conservative, a group of individuals--the largest group of whites I've talked to since I wrote this book, 1,100. And the book sold out. They had several hundred copies of the book or whatev--or--but the book sold out that night. But one gentleman came up to me and--and--half joking saying, you know, `How dare you come into the heart of the Confederacy and talk to us about--about slavery? Sign these two books, sir.'

And--and that goes to the heart of it. There are a number of people who just don't--don't want to--want to deal with it, but I think when they learn more about what this is all about and learn more about the fact that African people came to this country to help build this republic that we now embrace and--and--and that we--that we love, I think more people are more interested in learning about this particular piece of history.
LAMB: Go back to your Richmond crowd. The Junior League.
Mr. COTTMAN: The Junior League of Richmond.
LAMB: Eleven hundred people.
Mr. COTTMAN: Eleven hundred people.
LAMB: How many black faces in the group?
Mr. COTTMAN: Ten. I counted them.
LAMB: What's it feel...
Mr. COTTMAN: And they each bought a book.
LAMB: What's it like to stand in front of a group like that in the old Confederacy?
Mr. COTTMAN: The--the Junior League will--will tell you, I think, that--they told me that they grappled with inviting me. This is the oldest author dinner in the country--event in the country. It's 54 years old continuously and it brings out just so many people. They didn't know if this was a--a book that people would embrace. And they thought about it very hard, but they invited me anyway because they said this is a message for all of us, and this is a story that needs to be told and it's international, it's a global story. It's a story about whites and blacks. It's all--it's our story.

And it was. I--I have to admit I was a little nervous. I wasn't sure how they were gonna relate to it, but I talked about some things that I'm talking to you about. I'm talking about I'm--I'm a human being, a person growing up in Detroit, watching "Sea Hunt," having parents who taught me to swim and--and a father who taught me about history and to embrace all history and all cultures.

This doesn't make me a--a stranger in--in this world. It doesn't make me a stranger to them. It's--I talked about my daughter and teaching my--my daughter to swim who's two years old. I talked about trying to learn more about my history the way all people in this country try to find out about their history.

A gentleman called me out of the blue a couple of weeks ago and says, `I feel a lot--I feel connected to you.' His name was Michael. He was from Detroit. We had a couple of friends in com--common and he was Jewish. And he talked about how he was tracing his roots--like he traced his--his roots to find out more about his family and about the Holocaust. And he related to the African Holocaust the way he relates to the Jewish Holocaust. And he said that there's a connection here and, `I read your book and I just wanted to tell you that I felt this connection.' And so I--so it's--it's--it's not--it's not foreign. This isn't, I don't think, a foreign experience.

So when these people in Richmond heard--heard from me, I got an--an enthusiastic round of applause and, more importantly, there was a very long line of people who--who purchased the book. And everybody who bought the book, Brian, wanted to tell me a story. They wanted to tell me a story about--about something that happened in their life that they can relate to that I wrote. And, I mean, you know, I was a young black boy. I grew up in Detroit, you know. I should not even--there should be nothing about me, in some ways, theat--that some of these people who grew up in the South and didn't grow up around a lot of black people, could relate to.

One woman told me that she came to the--the book event and had no intention of buying my book. But after listening to it and reading the prologue, she said, `I decided to buy it 'cause I thought it was important.'
LAMB: What's this about heart problems in 1990?
Mr. COTTMAN: Yeah. It was--it wasn't even--as it turns out, it wasn't even heart problems. We--they--they thought it was originally because I had shortness of breath. And went to the hospital, and I'm--I go in and they're taking blood and they're asking me am I an intravenous drug user. And what happened was I had given blood at my job several days prior to, so they're poking me and they're pricking me and nurse is saying, `Well, we'll find out whether you are or not in a few minutes once the tests come back.' Of course, the tests come back and they find out that, you know, nothing's wrong with me, except for the fact that I've got this stress in my life.

I was getting ready to get married. I'd changed jobs. There were--I think there's a list of 10 things--some--some list somewhere that--the most stressful...
LAMB: You had more than 30 points in one year, in other words, on this list.
Mr. COTTMAN: I--I did. I was just going nuts. And I go into the hospital. They--they give me a stress test. The doctor says, `Look, you're completely healthy. There's nothing wrong with you.' He says, `Your problem is all above your shoulders. You need to handle your stress better. Go relax, first of all, start exercising and try to find ways to rechannel all this neg--this energy because,' he says, `you're stewing in your own juices, you know, and you really need to get out and just kind of relax.' And...
LAMB: Go--again, though, you mention the race thing at the--the time that you--you had these tests, that there was suspicion that you're on drugs.
Mr. COTTMAN: That's right. That's absolutely right. Right.
LAMB: And the needles and the, you know...
Mr. COTTMAN: Right. Because I had given blood and I guess she saw the needles in my--in my arm and she asked me--she says, `Are you an intravenous drug user?' And I said no. And her response was something to the effect of, `Well, we'll see.' But she didn't believe me. I mean, she thought I was a drug user. And I was already stressed out enough that I go to my doctor--I have a--you know, and I'm sitting there and he's giving me a--an examination and he's telling me, `You know, your--you know, your--your breathing's a little--sounds a little strange and, you know, your--you look a little weird, and I think we're just gonna check you right into the hospital.'

So went to the clinic straight to a hospital in--in New York. And--so I'm already--I'm already, you know, feeling--I--I'm even more stressed now, you know. I'm thinking, `Jesus Christ, you know, what's going on with me?' So I--I call my wife and leave her a message. I call one of my best friends, and he comes running down to the hospital with everything, you know, short of flowers and a shovel, you know. And...
LAMB: How old were you then?
Mr. COTTMAN: I was--oh, this was just 10 years ago, so maybe 32, 33.
LAMB: Your wife, Meray?
Mr. COTTMAN: Meray.
LAMB: Meray.
Mr. COTTMAN: Meray.
LAMB: Where'd you meet her?
Mr. COTTMAN: I met Meray here in Washington actually through a good friend of mine, Donna Britt, who's a columnist at The Washington Post, who has introduced something like nine couples together or 10 couples and out of those 10, eight or nine have gotten married over the years. So I met her through Donna and we went out. And we were supposed to spend one two-hour date. I think it was July Fourth. And I have family in Washington. I ended up taking her by my family's house and we had an 11 1/2 hour date, and the rest is history.
LAMB: If I counted right, I found you in Atlanta in 1976 with the Daily World?
Mr. COTTMAN: That's right.
LAMB: Was that your first job?
Mr. COTTMAN: That was my first job. I was in college then.
LAMB: Graduated from?
Mr. COTTMAN: Graduated from Clark Atlanta University.
LAMB: Newsday for 10 years.
Mr. COTTMAN: That's right.
LAMB: What'd you do in Philadelphia?
Mr. COTTMAN: Philadelphia I was--I--I just actually lived in Philadelphia, right. My wife--I commuted from Philadelphia to New York because my wife worked for the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer.
LAMB: And Miami Herald, 1980 to 1986.
Mr. COTTMAN: That's right.
LAMB: What did--what kind of writing did you do for them?
Mr. COTTMAN: I did urban affairs, covered local governments and, for a short stint, covered parts of the English-speaking Caribbean.
LAMB: Go back to the diving.
Mr. COTTMAN: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What was--what was your first dive?
Mr. COTTMAN: My very first dive, outside of training, was in Florida.
LAMB: By yourself?
Mr. COTTMAN: Key Largo, Florida, by myself. That's right.
LAMB: When--when did you do that?
Mr. COTTMAN: I did that after I finished my advanced open-water scuba certificate.
LAMB: And what is it that you feel when you dive?
Mr. COTTMAN: It's tranquil. It's a sense of escape, some ways isolation to get away from fax machines and ringing telephones, to--to float. It's the closest thing to zero gravity. You know, I've always wanted to be an astronaut, and I can't do that. But you can float in midair underwater, and it's--it's--you do this--it's like a gentle free fall into this beautiful, pristine, enormous abyss.
LAMB: And what is this photograph right here?
Mr. COTTMAN: That--that--that's a photo of going back or returning to the site of the Henrietta Marie. And during that time, Howard Moss on the left and Ric Powell, who's playing the drums, thought that they would call our ancestors--or let our ancestors know that we were coming to visit. So Ric's blowing through the conch shell. They had drums and almost making the--re-creating the--the sounds that you--you may hear in Africa.
LAMB: And what year did you drop the monument there?
Mr. COTTMAN: 1993.
LAMB: How many people went on that?
Mr. COTTMAN: Ten.
LAMB: And how many people wanted to go on it?
Mr. COTTMAN: Maybe several hundred.
LAMB: How did they decide?
Mr. COTTMAN: You--do you know to this day that's still a controversy. Dr. Jones handpicked all of us, and he decided that he wanted everybody to have a particular role. And I can't remember everybody's role, but I remember mine, in particular, was to chronicle the event for the National Association of Black Scuba Divers newsletter. And he wanted me to come and he wanted me to write about it and just chronicle this for history. And it was then that I thought this is a much larger story than--not to knock the newsletter, but a much larger story than the newsletter. But he wanted me to come along, in a sense, to write--as a writer.
LAMB: Who did the--who actually made the monument?
Mr. COTTMAN: The monument was made by a company--I forgot the name of it, and Key--in Key West.
LAMB: How big is it?
Mr. COTTMAN: In Key Lar--in Key West. It's...
LAMB: How big is it? How big..
Mr. COTTMAN: It's 5' by 5' and it's--weighs one ton. And actually people came together and just, actually, pooled money, black and white, to build the monument. And the reason we went out there in the first place and got out there because they--a white doctor in Key West loaned us his boat.
LAMB: His name?
Mr. COTTMAN: His name is Robin--Dr. Robin Lockwood.
LAMB: Why did he loan you his boat?
Mr. COTTMAN: I went back and asked him. We asked him that question. He just said that he s--thought that it was such a worthy event, and it...
LAMB: Forty-two-foot yacht.
Mr. COTTMAN: Yacht, that's right. And it was so unusual to--to discover the slave ship. And he was very impressed with the people who came together of all--of ethnic backgrounds, again, to come together to--to partner, to learn more about this, that he felt that he wanted to do something for us. And he knew that we were struggling trying to pull resources together and money together to--to get this project done. So he just said, `Take--take my boat.'
LAMB: And you found him cleaning the boat himself before...
Mr. COTTMAN: He--he was. That--that's a true story. He was swabbing the decks and--and cleaning the boat and I didn't know it was him. I thought--I actually thought that he was one of the crew members. So I went up to this gentleman and said, `I'd like to talk to Dr. Lockwood.' And he said, `I'm Dr. Lockwood.' And I said, `I wanted to come by and I just wanted to thank you for loaning us your boat. Why are you here working?' He said `Because I take pride in my--in my boat. A--and you guys are going out on it and this is a--a wonderful event. And, you know, I don't want you to go out here on a--on a dirty boat. So I came out here and cleaned it myself.'
LAMB: And how long did it take to put the monument down?
Mr. COTTMAN: It took three--it took about four hours. It takes about three and a half or four hours to get to the site of New Ground Reef. On that particular boat it did because we were so weighed down, we had so many people. And it took about four hours to actually get the job done, to get the--the--the monument on the s--on the wreck site. And then it took several hours to get back. So it was a--it was a daylong event.
LAMB: Do you have any idea where the name Henrietta Marie came from?
Mr. COTTMAN: We--we--we think that it may--may have been--Henrietta Marie may have been the daughter of one of the French kings, maybe. But we're not--we're not...
LAMB: And when you look back...
Mr. COTTMAN: We're not sure.
LAMB: ...over the experience, where was the most valuable information for you?
Mr. COTTMAN: I would probably say in London--in London with a--a slave ship captain's journals. During that time, slave ships traveled in clusters. So other ship captains also wrote about traveling with ships, and one of those ships was the Henrietta Marie. I would say in London, no question about it for sure, and--and then Jamaica because there was some very, very, very good records about the Fuller family, who manufactured the, again, weapons for the--for the slave ship.
LAMB: In the back...
Mr. COTTMAN: ...(Unintelligible) it was London.
LAMB: I'm sorry. In the back, you talked to a bunch of folks: Michael Eric Dyson, Dr. Madeleine...
Mr. COTTMAN: Burnside.
LAMB: ...Burnside, Sheryl Laroache, sh--Cornell West. You get their views on race. But the one I want to ask you about is John Hope Franklin. Where'd you find him?
Mr. COTTMAN: John Hope Franklin, as it turns out, is a very, very good friend of my family and taught my mother at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, 50 years ago. So he's been a good friend of the family for years. But he's--also wrote the definitive book on--on--on slavery, one of the most definitive books, "From Slavery to Freedom."
LAMB: And also headed up the president's...
Mr. COTTMAN: P--precisely. The g--he was the...
LAMB: ...commission.
Mr. COTTMAN: ...chairman of the Commission on Race.
LAMB: But here's another example of those little incidences in--in a black man's life that he writes about--or tells you about, that you wrote about yourself. `There are people who are living discrimination every day, living humiliation every day. White women ask me to hang up their coats. They think I'm a servant. Or a man sees me in a hotel lobby and says, "Here, boy, go and get my car." In New York, a woman said, "Here, take this trash and throw it away." I told her to throw it away herself.' Everything is not all right, he's saying. Sum it up at--at this point in your life. Wh--how much farther do you think we have to go in order to make it right?
Mr. COTTMAN: I--Brian, I still think we've got a--we've got a long way to go. I mean, there's--there's no question about it. I think that if we can have--and--and I'm glad you brought this up because I had this conversation with so many people also in Richmond, and the discussion was: How do we cross this enormous divide that--that clearly exists between whites and blacks? And one of the reasons--one of the ways that we talked about doing that is through--through--through--through books and through--through real-life stories, you know, telling stories, being able to--to share things that--that--that happened in your life without beating people over the head with it, but--but understanding that when I came out of this process, that th--it wasn't bitter. Right?

But I'm telling a story, I'm talking about things that have happened to me. But I still think we have a long way to go, but I think the bottom line and the first thing we need to do is be able to come to the table to talk. And as long as you can at least have a dialogue and begin a dialogue on race, I think there's a--there's a chance.
LAMB: Is this you up at the top right here?
Mr. COTTMAN: Y--yes, it--yes, it is. And it wasn't my idea to put that on the cover. The publishing cover decided to. And I want to say that we're changing the title for the paperback. Th--the title of the paperback will be called "Spirit Dive." And it was a--original title that we thought maybe for the hard cover, and Random House is a great publisher and we sat down, had a discussion about what this book is all about. And there's also a spiritual component to it, so we're changing the title to "Spirit Dive" for the paperback.
LAMB: Our guest has been Michael H. Cottman. This is the book, "The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie." And we thank you very much.
Mr. COTTMAN: Thank you, Brian.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1996. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.