- La Amistad
"La Amistad" (Spanish: "Friendship") was a 19th-century two-masted
schoonerbuilt in the United Statesbut owned by a Spaniard living in Cuba. The ship was notable as the scene of a revolt by Africancaptives being transported from Havana. When they took control of the ship in July 1839 and were later captured by the US Navy, "La Amistad" became a symbol in the movement to abolish slavery. The ship was taken under control by the United States, resulting in a legal battle over the status of the Africans, as importation of slaves into the US had been prohibited since 1808.
July 2 1839, Sengbe Piehled fellow 53 Africans (49 adults and 4 children), captives being transported aboard "La Amistad" from Havana, in a revolt against their captors. After gaining control of the ship, the Africans demanded to be returned home, but the ship’s navigator deceived them about the course and sailed north along the North American coast to Long Island, New York.
schoonerwas taken into custody by the United States Navyand the Africans were taken to Connecticutto be sold as slaves. There ensued a widely publicized court case in New Haven, CTabout the ship and the legal status of the African captives. At that time the transport of slaves from Africa to the Americaswas illegal , so the ship owners fraudulently described the Africans as having been born in Cuba. The court had to decide if the Africans were to be considered salvageand the property of Naval officers who had taken custody of the ship, whether they were the property of the Cuban buyers, or of Spain as the Queen of Spain claimed, or lastly, if the circumstances of their capture and transportation meant they were free. The issues became the focus of the "Amistad " case, which figured prominently in abolitionism in the United States. In America, the African leader Sengbe Pieh became known as Joseph Cinqué. In Amistad (1841)the Supreme Court ruled the Africans had been illegally held, and the United States arranged for them to be returned to Africa, as they wished.
"La Amistad" was a 19th-century two-masted
schoonerof about convert|120|ft|m. Built in the United States, "La Amistad" was originally named "Friendship" but was she was renamed after being purchased by a Spaniard. Strictly speaking, "La Amistad" was not a slave ship; she was not designed to transport slaves, nor did she engage in the Middle Passageof Africans to the Americas.
"La Amistad" engaged in shorter, coastal trade. The primary cargo carried by "La Amistad" was
sugar-industry products, and her normal route ran from Havanato her home port of Guanaja. She also took on passengers and, on occasion, slaves for transport. The captives whom "La Amistad" carried during the historic events had been illegally transported to Cuba aboard the slave ship " Tecora".
True slave ships, such as the "Tecora", were designed for the purpose of carrying as many slaves as possible. The largest slave ships carried up to 400 slaves. One distinguishing feature that enabled this efficiency was the half-height "between decks" level. Slaves were chained down in a sitting or lying position, but the area was not high enough for people to stand in. The crew of "La Amistad", lacking the slave quarters, placed half the captives in the main hold, and the other half on deck. The captives were relatively free to move about, which aided their revolt and commandeering of the vessel.
After being moored at the wharf behind the US Custom House in New London,
Connecticut, for a year and a half, "La Amistad" was auctioned off by the U.S. Marshalin October 1840. Captain George Hawford, of Newport, Rhode Island, purchased the vessel and then needed an Act of Congresspassed so that he could register her. He renamed her "Ion". In late 1841, he sailed the ship to Bermudaand Saint Thomas with a typical New Englandcargo of onions, apples, live poultry, and cheese.
After sailing "Ion" for a few years, Hawford sold the ship in
Guadeloupein 1844. There is no record of what became of the "Ion" under her new French owners in the Caribbean.
Freedom Schooner Amistad
Between 1998 and 2000, "Freedom Schooner Amistad", a recreation of "La Amistad", was built in
Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut, using traditional skills and construction techniques common to wooden schooners built in the 19th century, but using modern materials and engines. The modern day "Amistad" is not an exact replica of "La Amistad", as the ship is slightly longer and has higher freeboard. There were no old blueprints of the original. The new schooner was built using a general knowledge of the Baltimore Clippers and art drawings from the era. Some of the tools used in the project were the same as those that might have been used by a 19th-century shipwright while others were electrically powered. Tri-Coastal Marine [ [http://www.tricoastal.com/amistad.html Tri-Coastal Marine] ] , designers of "Freedom Schooner Amistad", used modern computer technology to provide plans for the vessel. Bronzebolts are used as fastenings throughout the ship. "Freedom Schooner Amistad" has an external ballast keelmade of lead and two Caterpillar diesel engines. None of this technology was available to 19th century builders.
"Freedom Schooner Amistad" is operated by
Amistad America, Inc., a non-profit organizationbased in New Haven, Connecticut. [ [http://www.amistadamerica.org Amistad America Inc.] ] The ship's mission is to educate the public on the history of slavery, discrimination, and civil rights. Her homeport is New Haven, where the "Amistad" trial took place. She also travels to port cities for educational opportunities. The "Freedom Schooner Amistad" is the State Flagshipand Tall shipAmbassador of Connecticut. [ [http://www.sots.ct.gov/RegisterManual/SectionX/SITESEALSYMB.htm STATE OF CONNECTICUT, Sites ° Seals ° Symbols] ; "Connecticut State Register & Manual"; retrieved on January 4, 2007]
The Atlantic Freedom Tour
"Freedom Schooner Amistad" set sail on
June 21, 2007, from New Haven on the " [http://www.amistadamerica.org Atlantic Freedom Tour] ", a convert|14000|mi|km|sing=on transatlantic voyage to Great Britain, Lisbon, West Africa, and the Caribbeanto commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Atlantic slave tradein Britain (1807) and the (1808). The ship arrived in Bristolon 30 August, 2007. [cite web |url=http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/bristol/news/ART50181.html |title=Amistad Sails Into Bristol For Slave Trade Commemorations |accessdate=2007-09-04 |format= |work=24 Hour Museum ] Londonwas one of the ports of the United Kingdomportion of the "Amistad's" Tour. The schooner sailed up the Thames under the Tower Bridgeon August 14, 2007. She moored for several days in London Docklandsand attracted great crowds and attention. August 23, 2007, UNESCO's designated International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade, fell during the ship's visit to Liverpool. Her arrival was marked by the opening of the International Slavery Museumin Liverpool, the first museum of its type in the United Kingdom.
"La Amistad" in popular culture
2 September 1839, a play entitled "The Long, Low Black Schooner", based on the revolt, opened in New York Cityand played to full audiences. "La Amistad" was painted black at the time of the revolt.
A 1997 film, "Amistad", directed by
Steven Spielberg, dramatized the historical incidents. The film adhered closely to the historical events with minor changes that did not affect the overall account. Major actors were Morgan Freeman, as a freed black man; Anthony Hopkins, as John Quincy Adams; Matthew McConaughey, as an unorthodox, but influential lawyer; and Djimon Hounsou, as Cinque (Sengbe Peah).
Hale Woodruffcompleted a mural depicting the events that occurred on board the "Amistad". The six-panel sequence is on display at the Savery Library, Talladega College, Alabama. A mural of the ship is embedded in the floor of the library. School tradition prohibits walking on the ship.
In honour of the described events, the name "Amistad" was given to a street in
The song "
My Love Is Your Love" by Whitney Houstonreferences the Amistad: "And the chains of Amistad couldn't hold us."
Malice of the hip-hop supergroup
Re-Up Gangreferences "La Amistad" in his song "20k Money Making Brothers on the Corner" from their mixtape "" with the lyrics: "Big chain around my neck like I’m fresh off The Amistad... We won’t stop ‘till you give us us free." Rage Against the Machine's song "No Shelter" from the European/Australian/Japanese version of "The Battle of Los Angeles" calls out Spielberg's account by claiming:"Amistad was a whip, the truth was feathered and tarredMemory erased, burned and scarred."
* [http://www.wsws.org/arts/1998/feb1998/amist.shtml Amistad: Some historical considerations.]
* [http://www.amistadamerica.org Amistad Atlantic Freedom Tour - The Official website of AMISTAD America Inc.]
* [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/amistad/ Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut, a National Park Service "Discover Our Shared Heritage" Travel Itinerary]
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