Federal officials at the New London Custom House collected tariffs and enforced laws, including the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. It was the site of two Underground Railroad events. In August 1839, the Cuban cargo schooner Amistad was seized in Long Island Sound while carrying illegally enslaved West Africans. Federal officials towed the Amistad to the Custom House wharf to investigate and interview those onboard. There, a local abolitionist discovered the Africans were free-born, not legal slaves; his outcry led to the famous Supreme Court trial. The schooner remained in New London until 1840 when it was sold and its cargo auctioned-off at the Customs House. In September 1858, freedom-seeker Benjamin Jones reached New London after stowing away on a lumber schooner. He was brought to the Custom House and arrested by the federal agent. Local activists went there to protest. When asked, "Do you want to be slave or free?" Jones replied "Free" and was released. The Custom House is now a museum that promotes and interprets the maritime history of the port of New London and the surrounding region. The Amistad and Benjamin Jones stories are publicly told through the museum's exhibits, and programs.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: New London Custom House, 150 Bank Street, New London, New London, 06320
Contact Information: 860-447-2501 (main phone)
Website: New London Custom House
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: Susan Tamulevich
Location Type: Site
Freedom Seekers: Benjamin Jones