Atlantic Slave Trade: The Amistad Affair (1839)

Amistad
Figure 1.--This powerful mural depicts the mutiny on the 'Amistad' (1839). It was painted by Hale Woodruff, one of a series of six murals for Talladega College, an early black colleges. The mural shows the influence of the Mexican muralists. It is an intensely evocative image, packed with sinuous energy and intense colors. The same missionaries who helped return the Amistad Africans to Africa also helped found Talladega College.

Portuguese slavers loaded a cargo of 500 captive Africans on the slaver Teçora at Lomboko on the Gallinas River in modern Sierra Leone (April 1839). They managed to elude Royal Navy patrols. The Portuguese were not cooperring in Royal Navy efforts to end the slave trade. And Portuguese slavers had aready narket in Brazil. These slavers, however headed for Cuba. The ship's records note that about 200 of the captive Africans perished during the 2 month voyage. The slavers landed their surviving cargo at Havana, Cuba for sale to sugar planters (June 1839). At Havana 49 adult Mende tribesmen and four children from the Tecora were secretely loaded on the schooner Amistad (June 23). They were to be delivered to Puerto Principe for labor on sugar plantations. [Jones] The Africans led by Joseph Cinqué managed, however, to seize control of the ship (July 2, 1839). The mutneers killed the crew except for two men who the Africans needed to sail and navigate the vessel and two sailors who escaped in a lifeboat. T. They demanded to be taken back to their homes in Africa. They mutineers knew nothing about sailing and the ship’s navigator deceived them about the course he set. Strangely rather than putting into a southern port, he ploted a course north along the coast of the United States to Long Island, New York. There the schooner was seized off Long Island by the USS Washington operated by the United States Revenue Cutter Service (August 26). The Africans who were described as Cubans were initilly judged to be salvage and were transported to Connecticut to be sold as slaves. A case before the Circuit Court in Hartford, Connecticut, was filed (September 1839). Slavery was still legal in Connecticut, although not widespread. The Africans were charged with mutiny and murder. The court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction, because the alleged acts occurred on a Spanish-flag ship in Spanish waters as Cuba was a Soanush colony. This began the complicaed legal process. Various parties filed property claims the captives, the ship, and the cargo The British entered the picture because they had a treaty with Spain abd argued that the Amjistad Afrucabs should be set free, n eliminating the slave trade soThe Van Buren Administration mindful of the need to carry the Southern states in the up coming 1840 election attempted to return the Africans to Cuba. The issue became more complicated when it was discovered that they were not Cubans, but Africans. While slavery itself was legal in the United States and Cuba, the slave trade was illegal. This thus called into question the status as slaves. The ensuing court proceedings and diplomatic maneuverings that resulted energized the fledgling abolitionist movement in the United States. Former president John Quincey Adams took up the cause of defending the Africans. The First Congregational Church, Thomaston, Connecticut raised money for the Amistad captives (1840). Both the Cuban buyers and Queen Queen Isabella II of Spain claomed ownership. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, commonly cited as U.S. v Amistad (1841). The high court ruled that that the Africans had been illegally transported and held as slaves, and ordered them freed. The Amistad survivors were eventually returned to Africa (1842). After the Amistad Africans had been returned home, First Congregational and other churches formed the American Missionary Association. The Amistad Affair was of enormous importance. While it involved only 53 captive Africans, it proved to be the turning point which helped transform the American Abolitionist Movement from a fringe movement seen as extremists to an increasingly mainstream social movement--at least in the North.

Portuguese Slavers (April 1839)

Portuguese slavers loaded a cargo of 500 captive Africans on the slaver Teçora at Lomboko on the Gallinas River in modern Sierra Leone (April 1839). They managed to elude Royal Navy patrols. The Portuguese were not cooperring in Royal Navy efforts to end the slave trade. And Portuguese slavers had a ready narket in Brazil. These slavers, however headed for Cuba. The ship's records note that about 200 of the captive Africans perished during the 2 month voyage.

Cuban Sugar Industry

One of the consequences of the French Revolution was the Haitain slave rebellion (1790s) and eventual independence of Haiti. Cuba had not been a major sugar profucer during the Caribbean sugar boom (18th century). After the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), Cuba emerged as the main sugar producer in the Caribbean. The industry grew very rapidly in the 1820s abd 30s. Large numbers of captive Africans were need to work o\all the new plantations. Slavers thus shipped to Cuba to work the plantations. The profitabilty of sugar and the Spanish ability to hold the islands as independence movements swept the mainland, allowed the industry to develop rapidly. Cuba became the last non-Muslim country to outlaw slavery. After Castro seized control of Cuba (1959), Cuban sugar played a role in the Cold War.

Sale in Cuba (June 1839)

The slavers landed their surviving cargo at Havana, Cuba for sale to sugar planters (June 1839). After the Napoleonic Wars, Cuba became the world's leading sugar exporter. At Havana 49 adult Mende tribesmen and four children from the Tecora were secretely loaded on the schooner Amistad (June 23). They were to be delivered to Puerto Principe for labor on sugar plantations. [Jones]

Mutiny (July 1839)

The Africans led by Joseph Cinqué managed, however, to seize control of the ship (July 2, 1839). The mutneers killed the crew except for two men who the Africans needed to sail and navigate the vessel and two sailors who escaped in a lifeboat. T. They demanded to be taken back to their homes in Africa. They mutineers knew nothing about sailing and the ship’s navigator deceived them about the course he set. Strangely rather than putting into a southern port, he ploted a course north along the coast of the United States to Long Island, New York.

Seizure by U.S. Navy (August 1839)

There the schooner was seized off Long Island by the USS Washington operated by the United States Revenue Cutter Service (August 26). The Africans who were described as Cubans were initilly judged to be salvage and were transported to Connecticut to be sold as slaves.

Judicial Process (September1839- )

A case before the Circuit Court in Hartford, Connecticut, was filed (September 1839). Slavery was still legal in Connecticut, although not widespread. The Africans were charged with mutiny and murder. The court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction, because the alleged acts occurred on a Spanish-flag ship in Spanish waters as Cuba was a Soanush colony. This began the complicaed legal process. Various parties filed property claims the captives, the ship, and the cargo. The British entered the picture because they had a treaty with Spain abd argued that the Amjistad Afrucabs should be set free, n eliminating the slave trade soThe Van Buren Administration mindful of the need to carry the Southern states in the up coming 1840 election attempted to return the Africans to Cuba. The issue became more complicated when it was discovered that they were not Cubans, but Africans. While slavery itself was legal in the United States and Cuba, the slave trade was illegal. This thus called into question the status as slaves. The ensuing court proceedings and diplomatic maneuverings that resulted energized the fledgling abolitionist movement in the United States. Former president John Quincey Adams took up the cause of defending the Africans. The First Congregational Church, Thomaston, Connecticut raised money for the Amistad captives (1840). Both the Cuban buyers and Queen Queen Isabella II of Spain claomed ownership. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, commonly cited as U.S. v Amistad (1841). The high court ruled that the Africans had been illegally transported and held as slaves, and ordered them freed.

Return to Africa

The Amistad survivors were eventually returned to Africa (1842).

American Missionary Association

After the Amistad Africans had been returned home, First Congregational and other churches formed the American Missionary Association.

Significance

The Amistad Affair was of enormous importance. While it involved only 53 captive Africans, it proved to be the turning point which helped transform the American Abolitionist Movement from a fringe movement seen as extremists to an increasingly mainstream social movement--at least in the North.

Sources

Jones, Howard. Mutiny on the Amistad.






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Created: 8:41 PM 7/24/2012
Last updated: 8:40 AM 10/2/2012