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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > TV > London Local > Greenwich and Bexley > The Amistad sails the Atlantic

The Amistad

The Amistad

The Amistad sails the Atlantic

A replica of the Amistad ship, which once carried slaves is travelling from the USA to Greenwich to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

The Amistad sets sail on June 21st from New Haven, Ct. The first leg of the 18-month Amistad Atlantic Freedom Tour is the 4000 mile trip from New Haven to London via Halifax, Nova Scotia arriving in Greenwich in early August. Its next stop is then Liverpool in time for the opening of the International Slavery Museum and then on to Bristol.


On board for the first leg from the USA to UK are five British students;  Michael Simon from Liverpool and Imogen Ashfield  from Eltham in SE London. Also Saphra Ross, Chantelle Wright and Nadia Waithe who are all from Bristol.  They form part of a crew of 23 people along with five American students.
Imogen Ashfield who is studying her A Levels at Crown Woods School  in Greenwich told BBC London “This is an amazing and exciting opportunity.  There is a lot to be learned about the history of the slave trade and what a great way to do it.

The ship making the voyage this time is a replica of the original vessel. Officially named the Freedom Schooner Amistad the ship was built to celebrate the legacy of the Amistad revolt by serving as a maritime ambassador for racial reconciliation and human rights education.  It’s operated by Amistad America a non profit organization based in New Haven, CT.

On board the Amistad

On board the Amistad


Besides their sailing duties, the ship will act as a floating classroom with the crew studying maritime and environmental subjects, the social and economic history of the port cities and legacy of the slave trade.  They will also send back blogs and video diaries of their travels and studies.

The Amistad will leave the UK late August to sail to Lisbon, Madeira, Dakar, and Freetown Sierra Leone - home of the original slaves from the Amistad after travelling 14,000 miles.

The ship will then return to the United States in 2008 via Barbados, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

In all some 50 students have been recruited for various legs of the trip to report on its progress to museums and schools.


The Amistad uprising saw a group of captured African slaves overthrow their masters on board a Spanish tall ship. The revolt was led by Sengbe Pieh nicknamed 'Cinque' by his captors. He and 52 other Africans were originally taken from Mende- modern day Sierra Leone and sold into the slave trade. 

Sengbe Pieh - "Cinque"

Sengbe Pieh - "Cinque"

Britain had decades before abolished the slave trade through the 1807 Act of Parliament. 
Even though The American Congress passed a law in 1820 making participation in the slave trade an act of piracy and punishable by death, it was not strongly enforced and the transport of slaves between Africa and Cuba and Brazil continued. It was not till 1865 till the United States officially abolished the slave trade.

In 1839, The Amistad was sailing between ports in Cuba when the enslaved Africans seized the ship.
They tried to sail back to Africa but ended up off the coast of Long Island where the ship was seized by a coastguard ship the USS Washington. The rebel slaves were taken to jail in New Haven, Connecticut  to await trial on charges of murder and piracy.

Their plight caught the attention of American abolitionists, who mounted a legal defence on their  behalf.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where former president John Quincy Adams joined the abolitionists' legal team.

Finally, in March 1841, the Supreme Court gave the Amistad Africans their freedom and the thirty-five who had survived the ordeal returned to their homeland.



last updated: 25/06/07

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