The story of the Amistad lives on


The story of the Amistad is a story that illustrated the horrors of slavery in America and the battle for the nation’s conscience.

To help remind Americans of the nation’s dark past, a replica of the Amistad was built and is used as a floating classroom to tell the story of what happened in the Nutmeg State in the middle of the 19th century.

Hartford recently served as the host of The Amistad Journey to Freedom. The exhibit “commemorate(d) the 1839 trial at Connecticut’s Old State House of 53 natives from Sierra Leone who were kidnapped and illegally sold into slavery,” explains the website of Discovering Amistad (, the educational organization which owns the replica of The Amistad that docked along the Connecticut River. “These men and children fought for their lives and their freedom aboard the Amistad. The trial, which found those involved in the Amistad Uprising not guilty, marked an early victory for Black and white abolitionists and led to the eventual return of the captives to their native land.”

“The quest for freedom and the achievement of social and racial justice continues today,” said Len Miller, chair of Discovering Amistad, in a press release.

The website explains the story of the Amistad. “In 1839, Mende captives from Sierra Leone took control of the ship, the Amistad. Unable to navigate back to Africa, the ship was captured and towed into the port of New London Harbor in Connecticut. The Mende were faced with slavery or execution, and their cause was taken up by many residents throughout Connecticut. U.S. Circuit and District courts ruled in favor of the Mende. This case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and in 1841 this court agreed with the lower court decisions and the Mende captives were ordered freed.”

To tell the story of the Amistad, Discovering Amistad was formed in 1999 and a replica of the Amistad ship was built in Mystic, Conn. and launched in 2000.

Adele Johnson stepped aboard the Amistad replica in Hartford and pondered its history and the message it sends about America’s past.