Amistad rebellion, court victory provided hope for social change

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MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH)– The story of the Amistad is one of the most captivating in our nation’s history. But the slave rebellion and resulting court battle was one of the countries earliest victories in the struggles toward social change and racial equality.

The Amistad was never meant to be a slave ship. But in 1839 off the coast of Cuba, that’s what it became. Like many slave ships, there were inhumane conditions. It wasn’t long before the captives revolted. Led by Sengpie Pieh, they took back the ship.

“He is your average, everyday farmer from Mendiland. He is an ordinary person put into an extraordinary circumstance. He rises to the occasion and is the hero of the story,” said Jason Hine, Educator, Deckhand- Amistad.

Today at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, a replica of the Amistad sails again, part of the discovering Amistad initiative. It sits in a harbor not far from New London where it eventually ended up over 175 years ago.

The Africans found themselves in a legal battle even defended by former President John Quincy Adams. The highly publicized case made its way to the U.S Supreme Court.

“But ultimately they decided they are from Africa, as free men that had been kidnapped, they had every right to defend themselves and free themselves. So the Supreme Court ultimately decided they should be set free,” said Hine.

The court victory didn’t end slavery….far from it.

“The Amistad case actually didn’t have that big of an impact on Supreme Court law, on president. But it was a symbolic case,” said Jaclyn Levesque, Amistad.

But it did provide hope…

“To tell us that progress is possible. That we can keep moving forward,” said Charlie Best, Educator, Deckhand – Amistad.

Hope that is revisited every time the sails are set…

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