America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.
- Adlai Stevenson -

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Le Amistad was a ship carrying African slaves from Havana, Cuba to Puerto Principe, another place in Cuba. During Amistad’s voyage, the group of Africans were able to escape their chains and overtook took the ship killing most of the Spaniards who were directing the vessel. The Africans did however spare two Spaniards. The slaves directed the Spaniards to take them back to Africa, their home.

Unfortunately for the African’s, the two Spaniards directed to ship straight to America instead. The ship landed in Long Island, New York in August of 1839 carrying around 50 Africans who were led straight to jail. The Americans in charge then took the Africans to Connecticut to be sold as slaves.

Following this move to Connecticut, a court case began in the name of the legal status of the African captives.  Importation of slaves in the United States had been illegal since 1808 and there were many legal considerations involved in this case. It became a very heated and famous debate in politics. While it was illegal to import slaves from Africa, many people argued that the Africans were actually born in Cuba and thus officials were therefore not breaking any laws.

There was much debate about whom the Africans belonged to and a great contention arose. In response, the Abolitionist movement formed a committee and began to fight in defense of the Africans and raise money on their behalf.

In the court case, there were very many questions surrounded the circumstances of the capture and transportation. The case was also said to have lacked jurisdiction because the munity occurred on a Spanish ship in Spanish water. Thus, it was difficult to reach a clear conclusion.

Eventually the case was taken to the US Supreme Court. In 1841, the court decided the Africans had in fact been illegally imported and made slaves. The Africans were then deemed free. In 1842 the Africans were transported back to their homes in Africa. This case became a symbol in America towards the abolishment of slavery.

In 1997, Steven Spielberg created a film based on the events surrounding the Amistad and the Africans from the ship. I felt that this movie gave a moving and seemingly accurate depiction of the events of the Amistad. It also gave me a real sense of the slavery movement. After viewing this movie, the slavery movement and the importation of slaves became so much more real to me.

Ironically the word Amistad means friendship in Spanish. Unfortunately the tale of the Africans aboard this ship did not begin with friendship. However, luckily for them, their tale ended with immense friendship which lead to them to gain freedom and the ability to return home to Africa. 

No comments:

Post a Comment