Amistad Sails Into Bristol For Slave Trade Commemorations

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 30 August 2007
a colour photograph of a sailing ship on a blue sea

Amistad will sail some 14,000 miles during its 16 month trip

The Freedom Schooner Amistad has arrived in Bristol, continuing its Atlantic tour marking the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

It is making a 16-month, 14,000-mile tour of the former slave trade triangle with stops at more than a dozen Atlantic ports. After setting off from Newhaven, Conneticut it crossed the Atlantic and stopped off in Falmouth and Liverpool before making its way to a berth next to the Arnolfini on Bristol’s harbourside.

While in the city the schooner will be open for visits and lectures from the crew and the Amistad team will visit local schools to talk about slavery and the Amistad incident.

The crew was welcomed by Bristol students Saphra Ross 20, and Nadia Waithe, 22 who helped to sail the ship across the Atlantic from her launch in New Haven, Connecticut, USA on June 21.

Saphra and Nadia passed on sailing tips to the new crew, which includes Bristolian Molly Crossthwaite 22, who has just finished an undergraduate degree in archaeology and ancient history.

"What is hitting me most is how privileged I am to be sailing the Amistad back home to Sierra Leone," said Molly.

"Although I have previously studied various issues concerning transatlantic slavery I have never focussed on the Amistad incident. I have only now realized that it was ot only an amazing story of freedom but it had such and effect on American policies at the time."

The schooner is a copy of the original 19th century Amistad, which was at the centre of a remarkable story.

In 1839, 53 Africans were kidnapped from West Africa and sold into the transatlantic slave trade and purchased illegally in Havana, Cuba, where they were transferred to the schooner Amistad to be taken to another part of the island.

photo of an old fashioned schooner sailing boat coming into dock

The Amistad sailing into Liverpool before setting off for Bristol on August 26. Photo Albert Novelli

During the journey the enslaved Africans rose up against their captors, killing the captain and cook, and ordered the crew to sail to Africa. After 63 days, Amistad and her ‘cargo’ were seized by the USS Washington near Long Island and the Africans were held on charges of murder.

The case took on epic proportions when former US president John Quincy Adams successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the captives. In 1841, the 35 surviving Africans were returned to Africa.

After its stint in Bristol Amistad will sail to Canary Wharf in London and then head to Portugal, Madeira, Tenerife and on to the west coast of Africa before crossing to the Caribbean and then sailing back to the east coast of the USA.

Go to the Amistad website for more information on the voyage and to track where the ship is during its travels.

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