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Amistad


In 1839, Portuguese slavers abducted a large group of Africans from Sierra Leone and shipped them to Havana, Cuba, in violation of all treaties then in existence. Fifty-three Africans were sold to two Spanish planters and put aboard the schooner Amistad for shipment to a Caribbean plantation. The slaves seized the ship, killed the captain, and demanded they sail back to Africa. On August 24, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, and the Africans imprisoned on charges of murder.

Painting of scene from the film Amistad.
Amistad. 16" x 30". 2013. Collection of the artist. Montreal, Canada.

In 1840, a federal district court found that the captives acted as free men when they fought to escape their illegal confinement. U.S. President Martin Van Buren appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the release of the Africans.

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