The Amistad

October 05, 2001

EVEN BEFORE Steven Spielberg there was Sengbe Pieh, and there were history books that told his story.

The filmmaker, however, popularized the tale of the 1839 slave revolt led by Sengbe Pieh that gained control of the Amistad, a Spanish schooner, in an attempt to return to Africa.

The ship, taken near Cuba, wandered up the U.S. coast before landing on Long Island.

The men who seized the ship were jailed in New Haven, Conn. Their release was demanded by abolitionists; former President John Quincy Adams was among those who took up their cause.

Ultimately, they were freed by an 1841 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Ten months later, the 35 survivors returned to their homelands.

A full-size, 129-foot reproduction of the Amistad was christened last year, built at a cost of $3.1 million as a monument to the millions of lives lost in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The Amistad Freedom Schooner arrives today at the Inner Harbor in a flotilla of boats captained by African-Americans.

The Amistad will be docked here until Oct. 18.

A series of free public events, including tours and lectures, is planned.

A visit to the Amistad is a taste of history that shouldn't be missed.

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