Freedom Schooner Amistad arrived in Philadelphia today at the Independence Seaport Museum along the Delaware River. She will be there through Memorial Day weekend as part of the exhibit “Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River,” and will depart on May 29th. During her stay, visitors will be able to tour the deck and sail on this replica of the Spanish cargo ship La Amistad, made famous by a slave rebellion in 1839.
Even though Memorial Day is traditionally when Americans honor those men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, the story of La Amistad serves as a poignant reminder that not all those who fought for freedom were in a branch of the military. In 1839, Africans abducted from Sierra Leone by Portuguese slave hunters were shipped to Havana, Cuba, where they were sold into slavery. This went against all the treaties that were in existence during that time. When they arrived in Havana, 53 of them were then purchased by two Spanish planters and put on La Amistad. After setting sail, the Africans took over the ship and killed both the captain and the cook. The ship was seized by the Navy off Long Island and towed to New London Harbor in Connecticut.
The Africans were charged with murder and put in prison. Abolitionists from Connecticut and surrounding states helped get this civil rights case heard, and won, before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841. The attorney who defended the right to freedom of the accused was former President John Quincy Adams. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Africans and 35 out of 53 returned to their homeland. The others had either died at sea or in prison before the trial was over.
Freedom Schooner Amistad, constructed at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, first set sail in the year 2000 as a monument to the Amistad Incident of 1839, and as a floating classroom. She is the setting for lessons about history, leadership, cooperation, justice, perseverance, and freedom on a national and international level. She is owned and operated by AMISTAD America, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization, and was named the State Flagship and Tall Ship Ambassador by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2003. She has worked with international agencies and organizations in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, throughout Europe and West Africa for freedom and recognition of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Guardian Correspondent
Source: Amistad schedule