The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom

The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom

Marcus Rediker

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 014312398X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A unique account of the most successful slave rebellion in American history, now updated with a new epilogue—from the award-winning author of The Slave Ship

In this powerful and highly original account, Marcus Rediker reclaims the Amistad rebellion for its true proponents: the enslaved Africans who risked death to stake a claim for freedom. Using newly discovered evidence and featuring vividly drawn portraits of the rebels, their captors, and their abolitionist allies, Rediker reframes the story to show how a small group of courageous men fought and won an epic battle against Spanish and American slaveholders and their governments. The successful Amistad rebellion changed the very nature of the struggle against slavery. As a handful of self-emancipated Africans steered their own course for freedom, they opened a way for millions to follow.

This edition includes a new epilogue about the author's trip to Sierra Leona to  search for Lomboko, the slave-trading factory where the Amistad Africans were incarcerated, and other relics and connections to the Amistad rebellion, especially living local memory of the uprising and the people who made it. 

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local conversations, that much larger cities, with tens of thousands of people, existed further east, distant from the reach of the slave trade, which had depopulated coastal areas (The Palm Land, 428–29). Yet the cities were probably not as large as suggested here. This may have been because the Amistad Africans did not realize how large New Haven was, or they may have exaggerated the size of their own cities. It should also be noted that abolitionists wanted to present the Amistad Africans as

114–20 and Allen M. Howard, “Nineteenth-century Coastal Slave Trading and the British Campaign in Sierra Leone,” Slavery and Abolition 27 (2006): 23–49. 56. Rankin, vol. II, 78, 80; The Palm Land, 245; Barber, 12–15; Moore to Harned, October 12, 1852, ARC. The experiences of enslavement among the Amistad Africans were in many ways similar to those of 179 Africans interviewed by linguist Sigismund Koelle in Sierra Leone around 1850, 34 percent of whom had been captured in war, 30 percent

two and half years earlier by those who walked—and enslaved—in darkness.1 Until that fateful moment, Fuli, whose name meant “sun,” had lived in Mano with his parents and five brothers, humble people who farmed rice and manufactured cloth. A portrait drawn by a young American artist, William H. Townsend, depicted him with a mustache, a broad face, prominent cheekbones, a full forehead with a slightly receding hairline, and distinctive, almond-shaped eyes. He was five feet three inches tall,

court did have jurisdiction because the Amistad had been found on the “high seas.” Lieutenant Thomas Gedney and his fellow officers were entitled to salvage, on the vessel but not on the Africans, who under Connecticut law could not be considered property. The Long Island hunters Green and Fordham were not entitled to salvage. The court would send the cabin boy Antonio back to the heirs of the deceased Captain Ferrer in Cuba.59 In the ruling that everyone had been waiting for, Judson declared

remotest nation,” to India, Ceylon, and Africa, where “the heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone” rather than to the Christian “Redeemer, King, Creator.” The Amistad Africans sang the hymn with “great propriety” and were joined in the final verse by the congregation. The song pointed the way to a Mende Mission in Africa. Once again “weeping eyes” looked on from the audience.44 Amid its many successes, the tour aroused controversy. Joseph Tracy, a Congregational minister from

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