Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Ship Of Free Men

The United States Supreme Court affirmed the ruling to return the Africans who had been on the Amistad to their home land on March 9th 1841.

The United States v. Libellants and Claimant of the Schooner Amistad was an important suit regarding freedom and slavery.  The schooner the Amistad was somewhere along the coast of Cuba carrying a cargo of Africans from Sierra Leone who had been sold into slavery.  The Africans escaped their bonds and took over the ship on July 1st 1839, killing the ship’s captain and cook.  The Africans then made the remaining crew return them to Africa, but the crew instead sailed north during the night.  The Amistad was taken into custody on August 24th 1839 by the United States Revenue Cutter Service ship the USS Washington near Long Island, New York.

The court cases which followed through to the Supreme Court help fuel the abolitionist movement. The Federal District Court found in 1840 that the Africans had been transported in violation of laws and treaties.  It was ruled that the Africans were free men and had a right to fight and escape from their illegal confinement.  Under sectional and international pressure United States President Martin Van Buren had this ruling appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling on March 9th 1841, and ruled the Africans from the Amistad should be returned to their homeland.  Supporters of the Africans found them housing in Farmington, Connecticut and raised funds for the African and some missionaries to travel back to Africa.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, check Amistad: The Federal Courts and the Challenge to Slavery

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