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Amistad Rebellion Facts

Updated on August 5, 2013

La Amistad Oil Painting

Contemporary painting of the sailing vessel La Amistad off Culloden Point, Long Island, New York, on 26 August 1839; on the left the USS Washington of the US Navy (oil painting)
Contemporary painting of the sailing vessel La Amistad off Culloden Point, Long Island, New York, on 26 August 1839; on the left the USS Washington of the US Navy (oil painting) | Source

The Amistad Rebellion of 1839 happened a long time ago, yet it still fascinates the American people, and is shown in many books and movies even to this day. It is an important event in the history of slavery in the United States since it brought to light many features of the slave trade that people of the time had not considered. It propelled the abolition movement that eventually brought the slave trade to a close.

It started out as a routine delivery of Africans that were to be sold as slaves. The Spanish slave schooner La Amistad set sail from Havana on June 28, 1839 to go to the new plantations of Puerto Principe (Camaguey) Cuba. It had forty-nine men and four children aboard.

Cuba

show route and directions
A markerHavana, Cuba -
Havana, Cuba
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The Amistad schooner set sail in Havana, Cuba.

B markerPuerto Principe, Camaguey, Cuba -
Puerto Principe, Camaguey, Cuba
get directions

The Amistad was bound for the new plantations of Puerto Principe (Camaguey), Cuba.

Joseph Cinqué. Portrait by Nathaniel Jocelyn, 1839
Joseph Cinqué. Portrait by Nathaniel Jocelyn, 1839 | Source

History of the Amistad Slavery Revolt

Four days into the journey, four of the men who were held below deck climbed up to the main deck. They grabbed knives that were meant to cut sugar canes and used them to fight against the ship captain and sailors. The leaders of this rebellion were Cinque, Faquorna, Moru and Kimbo.

They killed the Captain and seized control of the ship. They captured two men who had considered themselves to be the African's owners, Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montes. Since they did not know how to navigate the ship, they ordered the Spaniards to take them back to Africa. Since Montes had been a merchant ship captain, he used his knowledge to deceive the Africans. He steered the schooner to go slowly towards Africa by day, but during the night, they turned it around to go north and west, hoping to stay near the Caribbean islands and the North American coast in order to be intercepted and saved.

After eight weeks of travel, a U.S. Navy survey ship captured the Amistad near Culloden Point, Long Island and carried the schooner to New London, Connecticut. The Africans were thrown in jail while the case went to trial.

Commissioned by the publisher of the New York "Sun," the print was described and advertised for sale in the account of the capture of the "Amistad," published in that newspaper's August 31, 1839 issue.
Commissioned by the publisher of the New York "Sun," the print was described and advertised for sale in the account of the capture of the "Amistad," published in that newspaper's August 31, 1839 issue. | Source

The Spanish diplomats and many Americans slaveholders expected the African rebels to be tried and executed for their crimes of mutiny, murder and piracy. But there were abolitionists who insisted that they be allowed to go free. It caused a large custody battle between Spain and the United States.

This created an epic legal battle that was well covered by the newspapers of the time. Cinque pleaded for his freedom, and his speech was printed in the newspapers of the time. The New York Sun covered the entire trial, and spoke glowingly about the Africans.

This legal battle went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme court, where former president John Quincy Adams argued for the Africans' freedom. They were eventually freed. After a fund-raising tour, they were able to set sail for their African homelands in November of 1839.

Amistad in Books and Movies

Amistad Trailer 1997

Comments: "Amistad Rebellion Facts"

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    • Millionaire Tips profile image
      Author

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      You're welcome Dianna. I am fascinated by this part of American, Spanish and African history. I really hadn't thought about how the slaves were transported and the conditions that they had to go through, before they even got to the U.S. until I saw a PBS documentary about the Amistad.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This is such an interesting part of history. I have not really looked into this before, you have inspired me to watch the movie when I get a moment. Thanks for sharing and writing on this topic.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image
      Author

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks Mike. I was surprised that I hadn't heard about the Amistad in school, since it was an important historical event, but maybe they thought that the revolt would be too graphic and the courtroom drama would be too confusing for kids.

      Thanks Aurelio, it is indeed a part of history that is worth knowing.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm not familiar with either the history nor the movie of the Amistad, but your hub prompts me to check it out. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 5 years ago from London

      Interesting historical hub

      [I have't watched the movie yet!].

      Voted up and shared.

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