Amistad Mutiny Survivors Freed
March 9, 1841
Would you rather die than lose your freedom?
More than 150 years ago, a group of people from the West African
country of Sierra Leone answered yes to that question. After
being abducted from their home country by Portuguese slave
traders and placed on the schooner Amistad, 53 of the Africans
followed the lead of Joseph Cinqué in a revolt against the
ship's crew. Cinqué was a member of the Mende tribe. He lived in
the Mende territory of Sierra Leone on the West Coast of Africa.
He was the son of a chief.
On March 9, 1841, the U.S.
Supreme Court freed the 35 Africans who survived the mutiny and
cleared the way for their return home.
leadership, the mutineers spared the life of the Amistad
navigator, ordering him to sail the ship back to Africa.
Instead, the navigator guided the schooner northward, where it
was discovered drifting off the coast of Long Island and was
then dragged into New London, Connecticut, by the U.S. Navy.
President Martin Van Buren, who wanted to gain the political
support of pro-slavery voters, wanted Cinqué and his followers
to stand trial for mutiny, but a judge disagreed and ordered the
government to escort the Africans back to their home country.
The fight between Cinqué mutineers and President Van Buren
didn't end there. In an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court,
former President John Quincy Adams argued that the Africans on
the Amistad were illegally enslaved and "were entitled to all
the kindness and good offices due from a humane and Christian
The court agreed, and Adams's victory in the
Amistad case was a significant success for the movement to
abolish slavery. Have you seen or heard about the movie
"Amistad" that was made about this case?