BlackFacts Details

La Amistad

Coordinates: 41°21′40″N 71°57′58″W / 41.361°N 71.966°W

La Amistad (pronounced [la a.misˈtað]; Spanish for Friendship) was a 19th-century two-masted schooner, owned by a Spaniard living in Cuba. It became renowned in July 1839 for a slave revolt by Mende captives, who had been enslaved in Sierra Leone, and were being transported from Havana, Cuba to their purchasers plantations.[1] The African captives took control of the ship, killing some of the crew and ordering the survivors to sail the ship to Africa. The Spanish survivors secretly maneuvered the ship north, and La Amistad was captured off the coast of Long Island by the brig USS Washington. The Mende and La Amistad were interned in Connecticut while federal court proceedings were undertaken for their disposition. The owners of the ship and Spanish government claimed the slaves as property; but the US had banned the African trade and argued that the Mende were legally free.

Because of issues of ownership and jurisdiction, the case gained international attention. Known as United States v. The Amistad (1841), the case was finally decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of the Mende, restoring their freedom. It became a symbol in the United States in the movement to abolish slavery.

La Amistad was a 19th-century two-masted schooner of about 120 feet (37 m). By 1839 the schooner was owned by a Spaniard captain, Don Ramon Ferrer.[2] Strictly speaking, La Amistad was not a slave ship as it was not designed to transport large cargoes of slaves, nor did it engage in the Middle Passage of Africans to the Americas. The ship engaged in the shorter, coastwise trade around Cuba and in the Caribbean. The primary cargo carried by La Amistad was sugar-industry products. It carried a limited number of passengers and, on occasion, slaves being transported for delivery or sale.[citation needed]

Captained by Ferrer, Amistad left Havana on 28 June 1839 for the small port of Guanaja, near Puerto Principe, Cuba, with some general cargo and 53 slaves