by Mary Dickinson
August 11, 2004
La Amistad is a replica of the ship by the same name that was taken over by Africans that were captured in Africa and were being forced into slavery in 1839. The ship drifted into the Connecticut area because the Africans didn’t know how to read navigational equipment and could only tell direction by the sun. They were recaptured when they tried to go ashore and procure food. Their story was accurately told in a recent Steven Spielberg movie.
The new Amistad was built at Mystic Seaport at the cost of three and a half million dollars in the year 2000. It’s a good will ship bringing the message of freedom to everyone, but gives a quiet message still vibrating from the days long ago when determined abolitionists help the Africans to be freed through the court system. The ships mission is to improve relationship among the races and cultures from the legacies of freedom, justice, perseverance, cooperation and leadership.
I noticed the deck of the 129 foot ship seem to be close to the water and I mentioned it to our guide, Donald George, a native from West Africa. He said, in good English with a precise African accent, the ship was not meant to be a slave ship but was a schooner intended to be used close to shore. The ship’s crew sleep in the hold when they’re out at sea and the room is used for a museum for tourists, during the day, when they’re in port.
The museum has information about the famous Amistad Incident and a life size silhouette of captives in shackles sitting next to each other in the hold of the ship. A few pairs of actual shackles like the ones that had been used on the captives were available to try on. Donald said the captives were fed potatoes and rice twice a day and a cup of water per day. The new Amistad offers a daily sailing schedule for an affordable price.
From journal The Amistad and the CT Freedom Trail