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In June 1839, a Spanish schooner left the shore of Havana, Cuba and set SAIL for Porta Prince, another part of the ISLAND. The CARGO in the BOWELS of La Amistad (the name of the BOAT, which ironically means, The Friendship) was 53 Africans KIDNAPPED from the Mendi village of West Africa and illegally SOLD in the Cuban SLAVE MARKET. (In 1997 Steven Spielberg told the story in a movie entitled: AMISTAD.)

On the JOURNEY the Africans, having already endured TORTURE and witnessed the BRUTAL MURDER and RAPE of many of their FRIENDS and FAMILY, were able to FREE themselves from their CHAINS and TOOK over the BOAT, killing the Captain and the COOK in the STRUGGLE. The PASSENGERS, two Spaniards who had PURCHASED the SLAVES, were SPARED and FORCED to SAIL the boat EAST to Africa. During the DAY they would SAIL toward Africa and at NIGHT they SAILED toward the United States.

The United States Navy off the shore of Brooklyn, New York finally CAPTURED the Africans. They were later taken to New Haven, Connecticut where they were TRIED for PIRACY and MURDER.

Their ATTORNEY, Roger Baldwin, found EVIDENCE that these men and women were BORN FREE in West Africa and were ILLEGALLY exported to Cuba and SOLD as SLAVES. During ensuing MONTHS, the Africans were TRIED, first in a DISTRICT COURT and then in a CIRCUIT COURT. Each JUDGE heard the same arguments from ATTORNEY Baldwin, and came to the same CONCLUSION that the Amistad Africans were BORN FREE and KIDNAPPED in VIOLATION of INTERNATIONAL LAW, and MUTINIED only in SELF-DEFENSE desiring to GAIN their FREEDOM and RETURN to their FAMILIES.

It seemed that they would finally be SET FREE and RETURNED to their HOMELAND, when President Van Buren, FEARFUL of possible CIVIL WAR over the ISSUE of SLAVERY, appealed the United States Supreme Court to RETRY the Africans. Since the MAJORITY of the SUPREME JUSTICES were SOUTHERN SLAVE OWNERS, President Van Buren felt certain that the Africans would finally be found GUILTY and SHIPPED back to Cuba for EXECUTION.

Roger Baldwin feeling INADEQUATE to TRY this case before the SUPREME COURT by himself, persuaded former President John Quincy Adams, a strong OPPONENT of SLAVERY, to join him in DEFENDING the Africans in Washington. For three hours John Quincy Adams stood before the HIGHEST COURT in America and ARGUED for the FREEDOM of these men and women. He READ passages...

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