This past Saturday several members of the Traces of the Trade family (Katrina, Holly, Jim, James, me and three extended family members) had the good fortune to sail into port at Long Wharf in New Haven, Connecticut aboard the Amistad Freedom Schooner which returned home after a year-long, 14,000 mile, trans-Atlantic journey. We were taken out to the Amistad on a small boat to watch the crew–and some of us were invited to help–ready the schooner for sailing, talk with those on board, and sail in to Long Wharf. The return of Amistad was greeted with music, celebration, and prayer.
The schooner is a replica of the original Amistad. In 1839, fifty-three African men who were being sent into slavery in Cuba mutinied and tried to sail back to Africa. They ended up sailing to Connecticut. Eventually they were freed in a landmark case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. They returned home to what is now Sierra Leone.
From the website: The Atlantic Freedom Tour has been designed using a series of destinations that link historically important ports together within the overarching historical theme of examining the Atlantic Slave Trade and the path to freedom. Each port has been selected based on its significance in terms of the history of the Amistad Story, the African Diaspora and the points of resistance and abolition to slavery. The presence of the Freedom Schooner Amistad provides a context for an examination of racial and social freedom and, in doing so, provides an opportunity for dialogue that advances the cause of human equality.
Traces of the Trade and Amistad America will partner together over the next several months. My understanding is that Traces will be utilized in the educational efforts of Freedom SchoonerAmistad as it visits ports in Washington, DC, New York City, Baltimore, and elsewhere.
It was a glorious, sun-drenched day and I was honored to participate. I was also humbled by the memory of the African people aboard the original Amistad and the conversations I had with crew members from Sierra Leone, Jamaica, and the United States. As my cousin James pointed out, the irony was not lost on us that we from the Traces of the Trade family were sailing on a ship whose human cargo eventually won their freedom.