Early in August the Freedom Schooner Amistad arrived in Halifax. She received recent public attention due to the excellent movie Amistad.
When I heard about the Amistad‘s arrival, I made a point of visiting and I was not disappointed. It also encouraged be to see the movie for a second time, and it moved me as much as when I first saw it in the theatre.
There are some things that become taken for granted, and one should review and expand one’s understanding of these issues, so that the signs can be recognised, and complacency does not set in.
This is the Freedom Schooner Amistad, a reconstruction of the original coastal schooner which set an important precedent regarding the status of Blacks in 19th century America.
The story started near Sierra Leone, where people illegally made into slaves were put aboard the slave ship Tecora, to be sent to Cuba. From Cuba about 40 of them were put aboard La Amistad, possibly to be sold illegally in the American South.
This version is a Baltimore Clipper like the original, but it has greater draft and beam to make her seaworthy enough to cross the Atlantic.
The slaves managed to free themselves and to take over the ship, led by Singbe Pieh (called Cinque by most Americans). They tried to make the two Spanish survivors sail them back to Africa. However, at night they Spaniards were able to divert north, until the ship was captured near Montauk Point, Long Island. The slaves and the ship were taken to Connecticut. The current Amistad‘s port of registry is New Haven, also in Connecticut.
By the time they made it to Montauk, Long Island, New York, the sails were in rags, and they were out of food and water. They were then captured by the American Navy and sent to Connecticut. By all reports they were so weak that it wasn’t difficult to seize them.
After arriving in Connecticut, through a trial and two appeals, there were three decisions determining that the slaves were really free men, and couldn’t be considered part of the salvage of the Amistad. This was done against strong pressure from the van Buren administration, the Spanish Government, and several other parties.
Judgement of the appeal to the United States Supreme Court, ably defended by John Quincy Adams and Roger S. Baldwin. Most of the Africans from the Gentleman to Mendiland and Sierra Leone. Cinque’s village had been ravaged and it is thought his family was sold into slavery. Others from the Tecora, was destroyed by the British in 1849.
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