Amistad (ship)

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La Amistad
Contemporary illustration of the Amistad with the USS Washington off Long Island (New York) 1839
Contemporary illustration of the Amistad with the USS Washington off Long Island ( New York ) 1839
Ship data
flag United States 26United States United States Spain France
SpainSpain (trade flag) 
FranceFrance (national flag of the sea) 
other ship names
  • Friendship
  • ion
Ship type Freighter
Shipyard Baltimore
Whereabouts Unknown from 1844
Ship dimensions and crew
Deck: 19.8 m ( Lüa )
displacement 120 tn.l.
Rigging and rigging
Rigging More beautiful
Number of masts 2
Contemporary illustration of the uprising (from 1840)

La Amistad ( Spanish for friendship ; first Friendship , later Ion ) was a trading schooner of North American origin. She was best known for a successful uprising by African slaves that occurred on board in 1839. The ship was picked up off the coast of the United States of America by the US Navy , which arrested the Africans. The subsequent court hearings - the so-called Amistad trials  - took place with great interest from contemporary US and, in some cases, international media and played a role in the movement to abolish slavery in the US .

The uprising and the subsequent trials formed the basis for several books and the film Amistad by Steven Spielberg (1997), which faithfully traces the historical events despite a few effect scenes.

The ship until 1839

The two-masted schooner was in Baltimore in the State of Maryland under the name of Friendship ( Engl. Friendship) built. Its deck was about 65 feet (19.8 meters) long, and it was about 120 tn.l. Repression . After being sold to a Spaniard, the ship was renamed Amistad . Due to the Amistad trials, the ship is mainly known by its Spanish name.

The Amistad was used as a cargo ship on short, coastal routes around Cuba, which at that time belonged to Spain. Their usual route was between their home port of Guanaja and Cuba's capital, Havana , and their main cargo was sugar-making products. However, passengers and occasionally slaves were also carried on the Amistad . Contrary to what is often said , the Amistad was not actually a slave ship : It was neither used for the transport of slaves between Africa and America, nor was it specially designed for the transport of slaves. It had a cargo deck of normal height, whereas a half-height cargo deck is characteristic of real slave ships, which is too low to stand, since the slaves were chained lying down and sitting.

The uprising and the ride of the insurgents in 1839

Sengbe Pieh , leader of the uprising (portrait from 1839)

On the evening of June 28, 1839, the Amistad , which was then painted black, was loaded with freight (wine, raisins, medicine, clothing, dishes and machetes for the sugar cane harvest) in a small port near Havana for a journey of several days to Guanaja. In addition, 53 Africans were taken on board. In addition to three girls and one boy, there were 49 men from presumably six ethnic groups from today's states of Liberia , Sierra Leone and Guinea . The Africans had only recently been enslaved in their homeland. The 49 men sold by King Siaka Massaquoi to the Spanish trader Pedro Blanco in Fort Lomboko had been brought to Cuba a few weeks earlier and with the Portuguese slave ship Teçora . This importation of slaves to America after 1819 violated an international treaty that Spain had also signed; therefore, the Africans were not legally “slaves” (see Amistad trials ). Half of the Africans were housed below deck, the other half on deck, where they could move relatively freely.

King Siaka Massaquoi, who sold Sengbe Pieh and the other men to the Spanish trader Pedro Blanco. From a book in the beincke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

On board the ship were, in addition to the captain Ramón Ferrer, his sixteen-year-old cabin steward and slave Antonio, two sailors and the mulatto cook Celestino. In addition, the plantation owner Pepé Ruiz, who owned the majority of the slaves, and the plantation owner Pedro Montes, who called the four children his property.

On the third night, the future leader of the insurgents, Sengbe Pieh (known as Joseph Cinqué in the Amistad trials), found a nail on deck with which he could free himself and the rest of the Africans. Around 4 a.m. the Africans took over the ship, killing the captain and the cook. The whereabouts of the two sailors is unclear. Two of the Africans died in the uprising and several were injured.

The Africans wanted to return to Africa with the Amistad . Lacking the nautical skills, they tried to force the plantation owners to help them drive east. These tried to stay in the waters around Cuba. During the day one sailed east. The plantation owners slowed down where possible and also sailed west again in the dark. As a result, the Amistad moved very slowly from the waters around Cuba and stayed for several weeks in the Caribbean and then in the waters around the Bahamas . During this time, the Africans risked going ashore in the Bahamas for water, supplies and possibly a helmsman. But since they spoke hardly any English and feared being captured and re-enslaved, they soon sailed on.

The schooner finally made it to the Atlantic, where it was driven north in the Gulf Stream on the changing courses of the Africans and the plantation owners along the coast of the USA. In August the situation on board worsened: supplies were running out, several Africans were sick, some had died, others were close to death. The Africans decided to risk another shore leave and reached the Culloden Point peninsula, east of Long Island , New York state , on August 25 . One group went ashore where they met Henry Green and four other local seamen. The Africans tried to persuade the Americans to sail the Amistad to Africa in exchange for the gold they supposedly had on board. As Green later stated in the Amistad trials, he instead wanted to hand over the ship for a mountain fee in New York , and so made vague promises to the Africans. Both sides agreed to meet again the next morning.

Before that happened, the US Navy brig Washington sighted the suspect Amistad early that morning on August 26th . Since she had been sighted several times in the past few weeks and described as a pirate ship, the commander of the Washington , Lieutenant Thomas Gedney, had been given the task of looking for a pirate ship with a black crew on his voyages off the US coast. Gedney boarded the Amistad and imprisoned the Africans, including the black slave Antonio. Then the schooner was brought to New London (Connecticut) , where the Africans and Antonio were arrested and the two plantation owners were released. In the Amistad trials, the Washington occupation was accused of calling at New London instead of the nearer port of New York in order to increase the mountain wages they were entitled to for the Amistad , since slavery was still allowed in Connecticut - unlike New York and the value of the "freight" would have increased by the value of the slaves. However, the allegation could not be substantiated in the trials.

The further fate of those involved in the uprising was decided in the Amistad trials , the focus of which was the question of whether the Africans were slaves under current law, whose rebellion would have been illegal, or unlawfully enslaved free people who legally opposed themselves by all means were allowed to fight back their capture. After a legal dispute through all instances, the Supreme Court of the USA ("Supreme Court") finally awarded the freedom of the Africans in 1841. 35 of the Africans returned to Africa, which they reached in mid-January 1842. The two plantation owners returned to Cuba.

The ship after 1839

From 1839 on, the Amistad was at the shipyard behind the New London Customs House for over a year and was repaired during this time before it was auctioned off by a US Marshal in October 1840 . The Amistad was acquired by Captain George Howland from Newport (Rhode Island) . It was especially a US federal law passed that Howland allowed the ship in the US in a shipping registry to register. Howland renamed the ship the Ion and in late 1841 sailed it with a cargo of onions, apples, poultry and cheese to the Bermuda Islands and to Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands .

Howland sold it in Guadeloupe in 1844 . The further fate of the ship is unclear.

The replica of the Amistad

The Replica Amistad (2012)

On March 25, 2000 was a replica of the Amistad often with the English nickname - Freedom Schooner (English for "freedom saver.") - in the port of Mystic (Connecticut) from the stack . The ship, home to New Haven, Connecticut , where the Amistad trial took place, is owned by Amistad America Inc. On board, school children are educated about civil rights , the history of slavery and racial discrimination . The Freedom Schooner Amistad also calls at other ports in order to be used there for educational purposes. On June 21, 2007, the ship set out on its first transatlantic voyage and reached Bristol on August 30 . It sailed on via Lisbon and the Canary Islands to Dakar ( Senegal ) and Freetown (Sierra Leone) and finally via Cape Verde and the Caribbean along the east coast of the USA to New Haven. The ship is located as a museum and educational facility in the USA (as of 2015).

The Amistad is since 2003 Flagship (English about "and" Tall Ship Ambassador " tall ship ambassador") of the State of Connecticut.

Ship data of the replica

Length on deck (LaD) 24.6 meters (80.7 feet )
Length of the waterline 23.7 meters (77.8 feet)
width 22.9 feet
Draft 10.1 feet
displacement 136 tn.l.

See also


  • Howard Jones: Mutiny on the Amistad. The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolitionism, Law, and Diplomacy. Oxford University Press, New York NY u. a. 1987, ISBN 0-19-503828-2 (English).
  • Michael Zeuske , Orlando García Martínez: La Amistad de Cuba. Ramón Ferrer, contrabando de esclavos, captividad y modernidad atlántica. In: Caribbean Studies. Vol. 37, No. 1, January – June 2009, ISSN  0008-6533 , pp. 97–170 ( PDF; 823 kB (Spanish)).
  • Michael Zeuske: Mongos and Negreros: Atlantic slave traders in the 19th century and the Iberian slave trade 1808 / 1820–1873. In: Christine Hatzky , Ulrike Schmieder (ed.): Slavery and post-emancipation societies in Africa and the Caribbean (= Periplus. Yearbook for non-European history. Vol. 20). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2010, ISBN 978-3-643-10593-6 , pp. 57-116.
  • Michael Zeuske: The History of the Amistad. Slave trade and people smuggling on the Atlantic in the 19th century (= Reclam-Taschenbuch 20267). Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-15-020267-8 .
  • Benjamin N. Lawrance: Amistad's Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling. Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-300-19845-4

Web links

Commons : La Amistad (ship, 1836)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Amistad (replica, 2000)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. About us: FAQ . ( Memento of December 6, 2006 on the Internet Archive ) Amistad America. Discover the Story: Slaveship? ( Memento from May 20, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (both in English); different z. B. The New Topsail Schooner Amistad ( Memento of the original from February 9, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on (English) all accessed January 7, 2007 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. According to AMISTAD: -The Ordeal of 39 African Men and Three Little African Girls. ( Memento from January 28, 2002 in the Internet Archive ) (Retrieved October 19, 2015) the Africans were from the tribes of the Mende (partly also "Mendi"), Mandingo , Vai , Kissi , Gbandi and Lorma . However, the site relies largely on private sources and uses a different number of Africans.
  3. A true history of the African chief Jingua and his comrades: with a description of the Kingdom of Mandingo, and of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, an account of King Sharka, of Gallinas: a sketch of the slave trade and horrors of the middle passage, with the proceedings on board the "long, low, black schooner," Amistad. (Hartford, 1839)
  4. Exploring Amistad at Mystic Seaport® (1997): The Revolt ( Memento January 2, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (English) Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  5. a b Unidentified Young Man . 1839-1840. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  6. a b c Exploring Amistad at Mystic Seaport® (1997): The Black Schooner ( Memento January 3, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (English) Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  7. From 1838 to 1848 the Washington was transferred to the Navy by the United States Revenue Cutter Service , see: Howard I. Chapelle, "The history of the American sailing navy", Norton / Bonanza Books New York 1949, ISBN 0-517-00487 -9
  9. Exploring Amistad at Mystic Seaport® (1997): The Trials ( Memento of January 3, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (English) Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  10. Crowds flock to S Leone slave ship. BCC, December 11, 2007.
  11. The 2007 AMISTAD America's Atlantic Freedom Tour . ( Memento of January 5, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Amistad America (English) Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  12. ^ Discovering Amistad charts new course for schooner. The Day, December 31, 2015.
  13. ^ State Flagship and Tall Ship Ambassador. Freedom Schooner Amistad . ( Memento of December 16, 2006 on the Internet Archive ) State of Connecticut, Secretary of State: Sites º Seals º Symbols; Retrieved October 19, 2015.