In 1839, fifty-three African captives, illegally sold into slavery and being transported off Cuba, revolted and took La Amistad north. Near Long Island, they were seized by a U. S. Navy vessel and brought to Connecticut. Spain pressed for the return of the ship and its cargo, including the Africans. Over the next two years, their story and the legal case that ensued captured the imagination of the public, and abolitionists, churches, townspeople and college students mobilized in their support. Roger Sherman Baldwin and former President John Quincy Adams won a landmark United States Supreme Court case freeing the Africans, who were eventually able to realize their wish to return to Africa.
Constructed at Mystic Seaport, and launched in 2000, a replica of the Cuban ship La Amistad, the Amistad, was designated Connecticut’s State Flagship and Tall Ship Ambassador by vote of the General Assembly in 2003. The Freedom Schooner Amistad sails on an educational mission to ports around the country from its homeport in New Haven. Freedom Schooner Amistad is owned by AMISTAD America, Inc., a non-profit educational organization. It was built through the cooperation of several Connecticut institutions, with the support of numerous corporate and non-profit sponsors, to commemorate the story of the Amistad, to symbolize freedom and to promote tolerance and goodwill through its voyages and educational programs.
This research guide was created to assist researchers in identifying materials relating to La Amistad held by the State Library. See also the National Archives & Records Administration's webpage and Google Exhibit on the Amistad for links to primary documents and information about the case.
See also the History and Genealogy Unit's Connecticut history clipping file under the headings “Connecticut – Amistad” and “Connecticut – Slavery”.
Prepared by the History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, 1998. Revised January 2005.
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