Wednesday, February 20, 2008

La Amistad
La Amistad (Spanish: "Friendship") was a 19th-century two-masted schooner of about 120 feet. Built in the United States, La Amistad was originally named Friendship but was renamed after being purchased by a Spaniard. La Amistad became a symbol in the movement to abolish slavery after a group of African captives aboard revolted. Its recapture resulted in a legal battle over their status.

The incident
Strictly speaking, La Amistad was not a slave ship in the sense that she was not designed to transport slaves, nor did she engage in the Middle Passage of Africans to the Americas. La Amistad engaged in shorter, coastal trade. The primary cargo carried by La Amistad was sugar-industry products, and her normal route ran from Havana to her home port, Guanaja. She also took on passengers and, on occasion, slaves for transport. The captives that La Amistad carried during the incident had been illegally transported to Cuba aboard the slave ship Tecora.

The Ship
True slave ships, such as Tecora, were designed for the purpose of carrying as many slaves as possible. One distinguishing feature was the half-height between decks, which allowed slaves to be chained down in a sitting or lying position, but which were not high enough to stand in, and thus were not suitable for any other cargo. The crew of La Amistad, lacking the slave quarters, placed half the 53 captives in the hold, and the other half on deck. The captives were relatively free to move about, and this freedom of movement aided their revolt and commandeering of the vessel.

Later years
On 2 September 1839, a play entitled The Long, Low Black Schooner, purporting to be based on the revolt, opened in New York City and played to full audiences. La Amistad was painted black at the time of the revolt.
A 1997 film, Amistad, directed by Steven Spielberg, examines the historical incident.
Artist Hale Woodruff completed a mural depicting the events that occurred on board the Amistad. The six-panel sequence is on display at the Savery Library (named for founder William Savery), on the campus of Talladega College, Alabama. A mural of the ship itself is also embedded in the floor of the library, and school tradition dictates that it not be trodden on.
In honour of the described events name "Amistad" is carried with street in a china-town of Havana.

La Amistad in culture
Between 1998 and 2000, Freedom Schooner Amistad, a recreation of La Amistad, was built in Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut, using traditional skills and construction techniques common to wooden schooners built in the 19th century. The modern dayAmistad is NOT an exact replica of La Amistad, the ship is slightly longer and have higher freeboard. There were no old blueprints of the original. The new schooner was build using a general knowledge of the Baltimore Clippers and art drawings from the era. Some of the tools used in the project were the same as those that might have been used by a 19th century shipwright while others were electrically powered. Tri-Coastal Marine

The Atlantic Freedom Tour

The Amistad, a Supreme Court case arising out of the rebellion aboard the ship
Amistad (film), a movie about the court case.