Over the years, the hunt for the remains of the last ship known to have brought enslaved people into the United States has been fraught with a mix of tumult and hope.

There was a discovery last year of wreckage that, after much excitement, was determined to be a false alarm. Hopes were raised, then dashed, then raised again — not only among marine archaeologists but also among the descendants of the ship's human cargo, many of whom make their homes in a tiny South Alabama community called Africatown.

Then, on Thursday, came an announcement from the Alabama Historical Commission: