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Essay on Amistad Story
Essay on Timeline of Events
Essay on Slave Trade
Essay on Connecticut Abolitionists
Essay on Connecticut Freedom Trail
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The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in partnership with the communities of Farmington, Hartford, New Haven and New London, Connecticut, the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers invite you to explore Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut. The plight of the Mende Africans caught the attention of America in the 1840s, and continues to hold our attention today. This travel itinerary highlights 14 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that tell the story of the Amistad and the Mende Africans' legal battle and quest for freedom in Connecticut.

In January 1839, a group of Mende Tribe Africans, were captured by Spanish traders and shipped to Cuba, where the Africans were bought by two plantation owners who intended to take them to their own plantations on another part of the island on the ship La Amistad. During that journey, the Mende revolted against their captors and tried to force the Spanish to sail them back to Africa. The Spaniards sailed north by night unbeknownst to the Africans, and the Amistad reached Long Island Sound on August 27, 1839. In search of food and water, the Mende deboarded on Montauk Point, Long Island, where they were recaptured by the Federal naval brig, Washington and escorted to nearby New London Harbor, Connecticut. The Amistad remained in New London, until it was sold 14 months later and its cargo auctioned at the New London Customhouse. The riveting trial of the Amistad Africans, including their legal defense by former President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, began in Connecticut and led to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Mende remained in Connecticut, as their fate was being debated and decided, for the next two years: in court in Hartford and New Haven (where the Mende were held in jail during much of the trial), and finally to Farmington where they spent three months while funds were raised for their return journey to Sierra Leone--places where important chapters of the Amistad story played out.

Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut offers several ways to discover the places that tell this story. Each highlighted historic place features a brief description of that place's historic significance, color photographs and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation bar containing links to five essays that explain more about the Amistad Story, Timeline of Events, Slave Trade, Connecticut Abolitionsists and Connecticut Freedom Trail. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itinerary links to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in Connecticut. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit Connecticut in person.

Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut is the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places cooperates with communities, regions and heritage areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan trips by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut is the 37th National Register travel itinerary in this series. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places hopes you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.

Amistad Story

The story of the Amistad began in January 1839 when hundreds of native Africans were captured from Mendeland near Sierra Leone, and sold into the Spanish slave trade. The captives endured brutality, sickness, or death during a horrific journey to the Spanish colony at Havana, Cuba, on the notorious Portuguese slave ship Tecora. Upon arrival in Cuba, the Africans were fraudulently classified as native Cuban-born slaves and sold at auction to Don Jose Ruiz and Don Pedro Montez, who planned to transport them to their plantations on another part of the island aboard the cargo schooner La Amistad which, ironically, means “friendship” in Spanish. Desperate, the Africans staged a revolt three days into the journey and seized control of the vessel, killing the captain and the cook; two other members of the crew dove into the sea. The Africans were led by Sengbe Pieh, a 25-year-old Mendi known to the Spanish as Cinque, who managed to unshackle himself and his companions.

Montez and Ruiz were ordered to sail east towards the rising sun, and Africa. During the night, the Spaniards would secretly change course, attempting to sail back to Cuba or to the southern coast of the United States. After more than two months at sea, the beleaguered Amistad finally arrived at Montauk Point, Long Island, New York, where the vessel and its African “cargo” were seized by the Federal survey brig Washington. On August 29, 1839, the Amistad was towed to New London, Connecticut, where the African's legal struggle for freedom was waged in the lengthy battle which ultimately involved the former President of the United States, John Quincy Adams.

The Legal Battle Begins
Charged with murder and piracy and claimed as salvaged property along with the Amistad, Cinque and the others were imprisoned in New Haven, after a judge in New London ordered the case to be heard at the next session of the U.S. Circuit Court, in Hartford. Groups involved with the growing abolitionist movement organized a legal defense, and began to provide for the Africans’ physical well-being and educational instruction. The Amistad Committee, as they came to be known, located a translator who could speak Mende fluently and thus allow the captives to tell their own story. Three days into the circuit court trial, the judge referred the case to the U.S. District Court.

The Political Implications of the Case
The implications of the Amistad case were profound. If the Africans were found guilty under American law, they faced permanent slavery or death. If they were handed over to Spanish authorities without trial, as Spain pressed President Martin Van Buren to do, the constitutional separation of powers was openly compromised. If freed after a trial, key pro-slavery forces would be embittered and likely withdraw their support for Van Buren who sought reelection in 1840. Hoping that the courts would order the Africans returned to Cuba, President Van Buren requested and received a concurring opinion from U.S. Attorney General Felix Grundy and the Cabinet. Secretary of State John Forsyth had a ship ready to sail for Cuba immediately after the trial, to prevent an appeal. The Africans defense centered around the fact that the importation of slaves from Africa was illegal under Spanish law, and international treaties to which Spain was a party. During the District Court trial, Cinque and the others described how they had been kidnapped, mistreated, and sold into slavery. The District Court judge agreed, ruling that the Africans were legally free and should be transported home. (The murder and conspiracy charges were dropped in the circuit court trial, the judge having found that the United States had no jurisdiction in those incidents.) Dismayed, the president ordered an immediate appeal, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Amistad Committee believed that they would need additional legal help to assure a favorable outcome for the Africans and decided to ask former President John Quincy Adams to intervene on their behalf. Adams was considered one of the nation's leading opponents of slavery because of his relentless fight against the gag rule in Congress, which between 1836 and 1844 prevented Congress from considering antislavery petitions. Adams's status as a former President would attract publicity and interest in the case and forestall the Van Buren administration from failing to extend due process of law to the Africans. The interpretation of international law and treaties between the United States and Spain would be important to the outcome of the case, many of which Adams, had helped to formulate while serving as a diplomat and Secretary of State. Finally, even though he had not actively worked as a lawyer for quite a while, Adams had experience arguing before the United States Supreme Court.

In November 1841, Ellis Gray Loring and Lewis Tappan of the Amistad Committee paid a call on Adams at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, (today the Adams National Historical Park "Old House") to ask him to defend the Africans. At first, Adams questioned his ability to rise to this challenge. He was 72 years old, nearly blind, busy with his duties as a member of Congress, and had not argued a case as a lawyer in more than 30 years. He ultimately took the case believing that this would be his last great service to his nation. In February 1840, he argued passionately for the Africans' right to freedom, decrying President Van Buren's illegal attempts to influence the judicial system and circumvent the Constitution. In March 1841, the Supreme Court issued its final verdict: the Amistad Africans were free people and should be allowed to return home. John Quincy Adams wrote a letter to inform his co-counsel Roger Sherman Baldwin of the verdict and reported that, “The decision of the Supreme Court in the case of the Amistad has this moment been delivered by Judge Story. The captives are free...Yours in great haste and great joy...”

At the end of 1841, the 35 survivors of the Amistad and five American missionaries sailed for Sierra Leone. They established a colony and encouraged educational and political reform eventually leading to independence of Sierra Leone from Great Britain. The Amistad case unified and advanced the abolitionist movement in the United States. Civil libertarians increasingly used the judicial system to press their causes, inflaming political passions throughout the country and laying the groundwork for the abolition of slavery and the modern Civil Rights movement in America.

Above essay excerpted from John Quincy Adams & The Amistad Event, produced by Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Timeline of Events


First Africans brought to Virginia.


Major increase of African slave labor in the British Caribbean for sugar production.


Massachusetts Constitution adopted with freedom clause interpreted as prohibiting slavery.


U.S. Constitution ratified with clause equating slaves to 3/5ths of a white citizen and provision that international slave trade would end within 20 years.


Great Britain abolishes slave trade.


U.S. law equates slave trading with piracy, punishable by death.


The Missouri Compromise: Missouri is admitted as a slave state, balanced by the admission of Maine as a free state, also includes an agreement to bar slavery from northern federal territories. President James Monroe orders first U.S. Navy patrol against slave ships on West African coast.


In response to petitions calling on Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, the House of Representatives implements the “gag rule,” automatically tabling abolitionist petitions. The policy is repeatedly renewed over the coming years.


January: Sengbe Pieh (Cinque), a Mende, is seized in West Africa and sold into slavery.


Early April: The Portuguese slaving brig Tecora loads slaves off Lomboko, at the mouth of the Gallinas River, on the West African coast below the British Colony of Sierra Leone.


Late June: The Africans are brought to Havana, Cuba. Jose Ruiz, a Spanish planter from Puerto Principe, buys 49 adult males, paying $450 for each. Pedro Montes, another planter from the same region, buys four children, three of them girls.


June 22-26: Montes and Ruiz obtain passports to transport “ladinos” (blacks born in the New World) to Puerto Principe, Cuba.


June 28: Ruiz and Montes walk their 53 slaves through Havana, board the Amistad at 8:00pm and near midnight get underway.


July 1: Cinque and Grabeau free and arm themselves and then the others.

  July 2: 4:00am: REVOLT.
  Over the next two months the Amistad sails east by day, north by night, through the Bahamas and up the North American coast, into United States waters.

Late August: As it passes New York, the “black schooner” has several encounters with pilot boats, stirring up rumors of pirates.


August 25: The Amistad anchors off Long Island and lands a shore party to obtain provisions. Late in the afternoon, Henry Green and company encounter the Africans’ shore party.


August 26: Early morning, Lt. Richard W. Meade, commanding the surveying brig USS Washington, seizes the schooner and escorts it to New London. They claim a salvage award for their actions.

  August 27: Amistad reaches New London. U.S. Marshal Norris Willcox notifies U.S. Federal District Judge Andrew T. Judson. At an inquiry aboard the Washington, Ruiz and Montes demand as property the 39 surviving adult African males, the four children and the Creole cook Antonio. Judge Andrew T. Judson hears testimony aboard the Washington and decides to put the matter to a grand jury, at U.S. Circuit Court in Hartford in September. The Africans are taken to the New Haven jail.
  September 4: New York abolitionists announce the formation of the “Amistad Committee” to raise funds for legal counsel and to support the Africans while jailed. Lewis Tappan, Rev. Joshua Leavitt and Rev. Simeon Jocelyn take the lead.
  September 6: The Spanish minister in Washington formally demands that the Africans be returned to Cuba to stand trial for mutiny and murder.
  September 9: Yale professor Josiah Gibbs finds Mende speakers on the docks of New York--James Covey and Charles Pratt--and takes them to New Haven to interview the Africans. New York abolitionists Lewis Tappan, Joshua Leavitt and Simeon Jocelyn form the Amistad Committee to raise funds for the defense of the Amistad captives.
  September 19: The first trial begins in the U.S. Circuit Court at Hartford, Judge Thompson presiding.
  September 23: Though he expresses doubt as to the legality of the Africans’ enslavement, Judge Thompson denies their motion for writ of habeas corpus, keeping them in custody in the New Haven jail.
  October 17: Tappan has several of the Africans bring civil suit against Ruiz and Montes for assault and battery and false imprisonment. The Spaniards are arrested in New York City.
  October 22: Hearings begin in the New York Court of Common Pleas, Judge Inglis presiding. Within a week, the court frees Montes, and reduces Ruiz’s bail. Montes flees to Cuba. Ruiz eventually makes bail and flees as well.
  November 19: The second trial opens at the federal district court in Hartford, Judge Judson presiding. Abolitionists try to get the case dismissed on grounds the “salvage” should have been taken to New York. They then introduce evidence demonstrating that the Africans were not legally enslaved. The court postpones the hearing until January and moves it to New Haven.
1840 January 2: Secretary of State John Forsyth orders the Navy to prepare to transport the Africans to Cuba as soon as the district court ruling is reached, before an appeal can be lodged. The Navy dispatches the USS Grampus to wait in New Haven harbor.
  January 7: District court proceedings resume in New Haven. U.S. District Attorney for Connecticut William S. Holabird announces that the Spanish government has merged the claims of Ruiz and Montes with those of the U.S. Various witnesses testify that the blacks are Africans, Mendes, bozales (not native to the country).
  January 8 : Cinque testifies, describing his capture, enslavement, middle passage, sale in Havana, revolt and encounter with Green. Grabeau and Fuliwa also testify.
  January 13: Judge Judson affirms the jurisdiction of the district court, and dismisses Green’s salvage claim. The court awards salvage to Gedney and the two Spaniards. The court also rules that the Africans were not legally enslaved. On the question of murder and piracy, the court holds that only a Spanish court can rule, but since Spanish law would have effect only if the Africans were bozales--and they were not-- there was no point in returning them to Cuba. The court places the captives in the charge of the U.S. President, to be returned to Africa. President Van Buren orders the U.S. District Attorney to appeal the District Court ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court in April. The Spaniards also appeal.
  April 14: On a motion from John Calhoun, the U.S. Senate passes a resolution declaring that a ship on the high seas during peacetime engaged in a legal voyage falls under the sole jurisdiction of that vessel’s country.
  April 29: Trial opens at the Circuit Court at New Haven, Judge Thompson presiding. Thompson eventually affirms the decision of the District Court, setting the stage for a show down at the U.S. Supreme Court.
  December 10: In the U.S. House of Representatives, John Quincy Adams accuses the Van Buren administration of falsifying documents in the case. A committee is appointed to investigate the affair.
1841 January 4: The House of Representatives adopts Adams’ committee report, but does not censure the administration.
  February 22: The U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing the Amistad case.
  February 23: Baldwin concludes his arguments.
  February 24: Adams begins presenting his argument.
  March 9: Justice Story delivers the decision of the Court, affirming the Africans’ freedom.
  November 19: John Quincy Adams receives a Bible sent to him by Cinque and the other Mendis involved in the Amistad Case. The Bible is now among the over 14,000 volumes in the Stone Library at Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts.
  November 27: Thirty five survivors depart New York for Africa aboard the barque Gentleman, accompanied by two black Americans, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wilson, and three whites, Rev. and Mrs. William Raymond and Rev. James Steele, to minister the “Mendi Mission.”
1842 January: The Africans reach Sierra Leone.
1850 The Compromise of 1850 admits California as free state, eliminates slave trade in the District of Columbia, establishes Utah and New Mexico without restrictions on slavery, and requires return of fugitive slaves.
1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act repeals the Missouri Compromise, allowing popular sovereignty to determine slave-or free-state status of territories seeking statehood, which increases sectional divisions within the U.S. and breaks down the traditional two-party system, giving rise to the Republican Party.
1857 The Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court denies any possibility of citizenship for African Americans, imperils fugitive slaves and sets back the cause of abolition.
1859 John Brown’s unsuccessful Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, raid to incite slave rebellion heightens tension over slavery.
1860 December 20: South Carolina secedes from the Union after Abraham Lincoln’s election as president, followed by 10 other states through May 1861.
1861 February: The seceding states establish the government of the Confederate States of America and create a constitution endorsing slavery but prohibiting the international slave trade.
  April: When Confederate forces fire on U.S. troops at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, President Lincoln calls for troops to put down the “insurrection” in the South, beginning the Civil War.
1862 September 22: President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, granting freedom to slaves in areas of the South in active rebellion on January 1, 1863.
1865 Slavery abolished in the U.S. by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
1866 14th Amendment to the Constitution defines a citizen as anyone born in the U.S. (except American Indians) or naturalized, thereby extending all rights of citizenship to African Americans. The American Missionary Association (formerly the Amistad Committee) founds Fisk University, among other historically black colleges.


Above timeline excerpted from John Quincy Adams & The Amistad Event, produced by Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Slave Trade

An estimated 12 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic to the Western Hemisphere from 1450 to 1850.  Of this number, about five percent were brought to British North America and, later, to the United States, most of them arriving between 1680 and 1810.  A small number of Africans went first to the British West Indies and then to North America. 1

Africans were present while North and South America were explored and expropriated as European colonies (1500s-1700s), but their roles and status varied from Mexico to Brazil to the Carolinas and New Amsterdam. 2   Bonded labor, common both in Europe and Africa, declined in Europe while it became more important in Africa after trade with Europe was established.  At the end of the 14th century Europeans, primarily the Portuguese and the Spanish, were exploring the west coast of Africa, looking both for trade opportunities and trade routes to the East.  In their interaction with African merchants they began to export small numbers of slaves to their European homelands.  With the exploration and eventual European settling of the New World, however, the trade in African slaves increased rapidly.  Initially Europeans brought only small numbers of Africans to the New World.  Yet as the need for labor grew with increased agricultural, mining, mercantile and other business interests, so too did the number of black slaves, the vast majority of whom were males.  Brazil and the Caribbean had the largest number of imports and for the longest period of time, until the 1880s.  Although most of the figures for the Atlantic slave trade system are imprecise, it is possible to estimate that Brazil received at least 4 million slaves and the islands of the Caribbean, colonized by the French, Dutch, English, Danish and Spanish, as well as Spain's mainland possessions, received at least 5.5 million. The mainland United States, as colonies and nation, imported about 450,000 slaves over a 250 year period.  Slavery in this country began, then, as part of a long history of international trade in goods and people in Europe and in Africa. 3

Europeans divided the slave trade into three geographic regions--Upper Guinea, Lower Guinea and Angola.  More than three-fifths of the slaves brought to the Chesapeake were from the Gold Coast or the Bight of Biafra.  Many Sierra Leonians went to Carolina where they were outnumbered there by Angolans.  Senegambians were prominent in both the Carolinas and Louisiana.  Rivalries between ethnic and tribal groups, raids by North Africans and local soldiers, and piracy on the rivers of the African coast provided the majority of captured Africans. 4

Traditionally, the entry of Africans into British North America is dated from the 1619 sale of some 20 blacks from a Dutch ship in Virginia. Although there were undoubtedly other Africans in those regions which later became part of the United States, slavery as it developed in British North America and was continued in the American republic can be traced to what happened in the Chesapeake in the 1600s.  For the first few decades, the status of Africans was uncertain.  Some were treated as indentured servants and freed after a term of service, often 14 years.  Others were kept on in servitude because their labor was needed, and it was too tempting for aspiring planters not to take advantage of the vulnerable black laborers.  By the 1640s, court decisions began to reflect a different standard for Africans than for white servants and to accept the concept of lifetime black servitude. In the 1660s, Virginia decreed that a child followed the status of its mother, thus making lifetime servitude inheritable. A series of court decisions from the 1660s forward locked slavery into place in the Chesapeake and its existence was not questioned in the later development of the Carolinas. 5  Georgia resisted briefly and then accepted the institution. Slave law to the north of the Chesapeake did not differ significantly. 6

Many blacks who arrived in the New World were familiar with bonded labor. Slavery in Africa, as elsewhere, was not a static institution.  European trade rivalries and the European view of North and South America as a site for aggrandizing their power through mineral extraction and staple crop production caused great escalation in the numbers of Africans enslaved and brought to the Americas.  Trade rivalries also caused tremendous changes in the status and functions of the enslaved.  The desire and, eventually, the need of West Africans to trade with Europeans in order to gain access to their weapons and other prized goods escalated their involvement in the slave trade to such an extent that they could no longer draw on the reserve of slaves that they traditionally had in their societies. 7 While there was a general protocol in which representatives of trading companies negotiated with African rulers through middlemen, the actual methods of the traders varied greatly.  As the trade became more lucrative with greater demand from the New World, more and more slaves were stolen through armed raids. The slave trade also had immense impact on the developing economies of the New World and the changing economies of western Europe.  It was the foundation for European mercantilism and industry in the 17th and 18th centuries, the labor force for colonial agriculture, and a prime force in the growth of the shipbuilding industry. 8

By the time a body of law regarding slavery was firmly in place, a number of free blacks who had escaped permanent bondage through indenture lived throughout the colonies.  They married--other free blacks, slaves, American Indians, occasionally European servant women--and raised families. This, in addition to African sailors and free black arrivals from the West Indies, constituted the core of the free black class in the colonies. 9

Lifetime bondage, or slavery, was firmly and legally established in the British North American colonies by the late 1600s and continued to exist in every colony in some form until the American Revolution.  The period of greatest importation of slaves into the United States was from approximately 1680 to the start of the Revolutionary War in 1776. There were a scattering of bondspeople in New England and, moving southward, the number of slaves increased from New York through Virginia, while a system of plantation slavery similar to that of the Caribbean developed in eastern South Carolina and Georgia.  In the Carolinas and Georgia, importation began about 1720 and continued until the slave trade became illegal in 1808. There slaves were acquired through  the low country ports of Charleston and Savannah or in the other major slave market, the Gulf Coast port of New Orleans.  New Orleans, controlled by the French and the Spanish in this period, imported most heavily while the American colonials were at war and continued through the early 1800s as an import market for the rising Cotton Kingdom. 10

When British North America severed ties with England, the slave trade between West Africa, the British West Indies, and North America was also officially severed, but colonial American merchant shipping was prepared to expand its role and replace the British.  At the same time, in the Revolutionary Era, the public debate in favor of liberty from England strengthened arguments against the slave trade and human bondage.  When legal codes were changed during the American Revolution, both the Continental Congresses and the individual states took the opportunity to condemn and restrict the slave trade.  Reasons for condemning the slave trade varied.  It was increasingly attacked as a moral evil by religious and benevolent societies; parts of the South feared slave insurrection if the numbers of Africans grew to be much greater than the white population; it appeared that the enslaved population could sustain itself and increase in numbers without significant importations.  To end the slave trade, however, was not necessarily to favor an end to slavery.  Here the colonies divided.

Since the Americans had argued for natural rights in their Declaration of Independence, there was some sentiment for ending the slave trade, although less political will for ending slavery.  Ultimately, the Constitution did not follow up on the implications for "liberty" offered in the Declaration of Independence.  The Constitutional compromise of 1787 put an end to the slave trade by 1808, but the Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 confirmed the rights of slaveholders to their property. Section 2, Article 4 of the Constitution referred to slavery without naming it when it said, "No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due."

After the American Revolution, Abolition Societies were formed in every part of the United States.  The American antislavery movement was modeled on the English antislavery movement from the adoption of the Constitution in 1787 until the 1820s.  English reformers, led by Quakers, evangelicals and certain politicians, had organized in 1787 to abolish English participation in the international slave trade.  The British reformers ended the slave trade by 1807 and ended slavery by 1833, with compensation to owners. The Americans followed the British example of advocating the gradual and compensated abolition of slavery.  But it was the activities of American free blacks and the resistance to slavery by American slaves that provided the movement with its most tireless workers and its best reason for persisting.

Above essay excerpted from the Underground Railroad Resources in the United States National Historic Landmarks Theme Study. Related information about The African Squadron: The U.S. Navy and the Slave Trade, 1920-1862 can be found on the Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea website.


1  Phillip Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 18.

2  For a summary of these diverse experiences, see Brenda Stevenson, "From Bondage to Freedom: Slavery in America," in Underground Railroad , (Handbook 156, Division of Publications, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., 1998.)

3  John Thornton. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1680 .  (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), xv.  See also  Donald R. Wright, African Americans in the Colonial Era: From African Origins Through the American Revolution (Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harland Davidson, Inc., 1990).

4  James Rawley, The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981), 17-18. See also Philip Curtin, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson and Jan Vansina, African History (New York: Longman, 1991);  Patrick Manning, Slavery and African Life: Occidental, Oriental, and African Slave Trades . (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990). 62-85.

5  Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia  (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), 299-311; Winthrop Jordan, The White Man's Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), 26-54.

6  James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 5-12.

7  Thornton, 116-125.

8  Rawley, The Transatlantic Slave Trade, 247.

9  For the origins of northern free blacks, see James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty , Ch. 1-2.  For a Chesapeake example, see T.H. Breen and Steven Innis, " Mynne Owne Ground": Race and Freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640-1676 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

10  Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 83; Daniel C. Littlefield, "The Slave Trade to Colonial South Carolina: A Profile," South Carolina Historical Magazine 91 (1990): 68-99; Susan Westbury, "Slaves of Colonial Virginia: Where They Came From," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd Series 42 (1985): 228-237.

Connecticut Abolitionists

National Abolition Movement

In 1832, the New England Anti-Slavery Society was formed. Within five years, it had several hundred local chapters primarily in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. In late 1833, William Lloyd Garrison allied with black and white abolitionists to form the American Anti-Slavery Society which had, as associate members, interracial female antislavery societies in Philadelphia and Boston. The organization grew quickly and had almost a quarter of a million members by 1838. The American Anti-Slavery Society divided at its 1840 convention when a woman, Abby Kelley, was elected to a committee. Garrison's group supported female participation and retained control of the much-reduced American Anti-Slavery Society. Seeing the deep involvement of the Federal government in slavery from the Constitution onward, it advocated the dissolution of the Union as the only means of withdrawing Northern support from slavery and forcing emancipation. Most of the Garrisonians were pacifists who rejected all violent means of ending slavery. They were as suspicious of organized religion as they were of government and they explored utopian communities and women's rights for the next two decades.

Religiously-motivated abolitionists constituted a much larger group and were organized loosely into the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society from 1840 until the mid-1850s. Political abolitionists were closely aligned with the church-based group and were themselves divided into three regional factions. The most radical of these political abolitionists, who urged political action against slavery, was the faction organized around Gerrit Smith in upstate New York. They argued that the United States Constitution, properly interpreted, prohibited slavery in the states and that the Federal government had the power to abolish slavery in the South. Another political faction, centered in Cincinnati, was part of the Liberty Party and then the Free Soil Party, both third-party movements designed to force the major parties to end slavery. The third political group were Boston-area abolitionists who could not support Garrison. Most of the political abolitionists found their way into the new Republican Party, organized in 1854.

Black abolitionists, who had sought white allies, often felt that they were kept on the margins of the movement they had sustained and promoted. Increasingly, free blacks had their own meetings and read newspapers published by African Americans, such as Samuel Cornish's Colored American and Frederick Douglass's abolitionist weekly North Star. The argument over which set of abolitionist tactics was more productive sometimes obscures the fact that the abolitionist movement, with all its divisions, was extremely effective.

Connecticut Abolitionists

The slave trade in Connecticut was prohibited in 1788. However, it remained legal to hold slaves until as late as 1848. The state had passed an act of Gradual Emancipation--children born to enslaved parents after March 1, 1784, would be freed at the age of 25 (later dropped to age 21). As a result slavery was slowly phased out. Meanwhile, African Americans and their allies organized to build schools and churches, and petitioned the General Assembly and local governments demanding the right to vote.

In 1833, Prudence Crandall opened a school for "young misses of color" in Canterbury, Connecticut. The townspeople protested and harassed Crandall and her students. She resisted and kept her school open. In 1834, Connecticut's General Assembly passed what came to be known as the Black Law. The Black Law restricted African Americans from coming into Connecticut to get an education and prohibited anyone from opening a school to educate African Americans from outside the state without getting a town's permission. This law, in effect, expelled those attending Crandall's school and closed it down. The Prudence Crandall trial and the establishment of the Connecticut Black Law of 1834 were huge setbacks for the abolitionist movement in the state.

The Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1838. By 1839, Connecticut abolitionism found itself at a crossroads. After several disheartening legal defeats like the Crandall case, Connecticut abolitionists were in search of a new cause to bring slavery to the public's eye. Abolitionists embraced the publicity given to the Amistad captives' plight as a means to publicize and reinvigorate their cause.

Abolitionists Lewis Tappan, Joshua Leavitt (both from New York) and Simeon Jocelyn (from Connecticut) formed the Amistad Committee to defend the Amistad captives. The Amistad Committee appealed to the public for both legal and living expenses throughout the trial. Jocelyn, founding member of New Haven's Third Church, was a white abolitionist and the first pastor of New Haven's Congregational church for African Americans in the 1820s. In 1831, he proposed the establishment in New Haven of the first institution of higher education serving African Americans--never realized because of overwhelming opposition.

Jocelyn was supported by New Haven attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin. Baldwin, a member of North Church, offered his legal services to the Amistad captives. For two years, Baldwin successfully defended the Africans' right to freedom (first assisted by some fellow Yale graduates, later by former President John Quincy Adams). As abolitionists, Baldwin and Adams seized the opportunity to refocus the case on human rights and to challenge the institution of slavery on moral and constitutional grounds. Baldwin and Jocelyn were also instrumental in securing first local, then national support for the captives.

Lewis Tappan, another member of the Amistad Committee, corresponded with his friend Austin F. Williams during the Mende's imprisonment. Williams and fellow Farmington abolitionists Samuel Deming, Horace Cowles and John Treadwell Norton were founding members and officers of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society, and had established possibly the first local anti-slavery society in the state. They arranged for the Africans to be sheltered in Farmington after their release while the Amistad Committee raised funds to send them home to Sierra Leone.

Oral tradition indicates that Williams was an Underground Railroad conductor and, along with other citizens, made the Farmington community a major Underground Railroad stop. After the Civil War, Williams was appointed director of the Freedman's Bureau of New England and New York and found housing and job opportunities for freed African Americans. Deming was a legislator, merchant, farmer and one of the town's most respected citizens and churchmen. Cowles had been an early advocate for abolition. Norton was an active international abolitionist and while in Farmington, the Mende were frequent guests at his home, performing gymnastics on his lawn. His son, John Pitkin Norton, then a Yale student and later a much-honored professor, served as a tutor for the Africans and detailed his conversations with them in his diaries.

While in Farmington, the Amistad Committee required that the Mende attend the First Congregational Church. They attended school five hours each morning at Deming's store. The Mende also were taken to different parts of New England and asked to participate in various fundraising events. With the money raised at these events, the Amistad Committee hoped to establish a Christian missionary in Africa and pay for the Mende's transportation home. Within a few months, it became clear that the Mende were anxious to return home. The Mende, accompanied by several missionaries (two of whom were black), left Farmington on November 27, 1841, and arrived in Sierra Leone in January 1842.

National coverage of the Africans' case before the U.S. Supreme Court gave fresh impetus to the cause of abolishing slavery. One of the first "civil rights" cases in the history of the United States, the Amistad trial illuminated tensions concerning the issue of slavery. For the next 20 years, the abolitionist movement would find the momentum necessary to propel this issue forward, ending with an explosive national conflict: the American Civil War.

The above essay includes passages from Exploring a Common Past: Researching and Interpreting the Underground Railroad. For further information on Connecticut Abolitionists, you may also want to visit www.yaleslavery.org

Connecticut Freedom Trail

This year marks the 10th anniversary of legislation authorizing the establishment of the Connecticut Freedom Trail (CFT). The legislation was signed in August 1995 and the trail officially opened in September 1996 with 60 sites in 30 towns. Included on the trail are sites associated with the Amistad case of 1839-1842, buildings reported to have been used on the Underground Railroad and gravesites, monuments, homes and buildings that are associated with the heritage and movement towards freedom of Connecticut's African American citizens.

Administration of the trail is assigned to the Amistad Committee, Inc. of New Haven, and the former Connecticut Historical Commission (now the Historic Preservation and Museum Division of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism). Liaisons from these two agencies and representatives from the various sites make up the Connecticut Freedom Trail Site Selection Committee which reviews research materials and requests for additions to the trail. As of 2005, there are 100 sites in 42 towns on the CFT.

Funding for the trail has been provided over the years by the State of Connecticut in the budgets of the Connecticut Historical Commission for the marking of the trail with plaques and informational signs and development of research on African American Heritage, and the Tourism Division of the Department of Economic and Community Development (now the Tourism Division of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism) for brochures and publicity. The Amistad Committee, Inc. has been a major contributor to CFT activities and has through the years secured significant corporate sponsorship for materials and activities promoting the trail. In addition, contributions have been made by local municipalities and even some property owners.

Once a site is listed on the trail, the owner receives a CFT plaque, informational sign and CFT flag. Other Freedom Trail products, which are available to the general public, include the video, audio tour tapes, brochures (3rd edition), and posters. There is also a CFT website.

Most of the credit for the popularity of the CFT must go to the Connecticut Freedom Trail Planning Committee which plans programs and events for CFT Month (September) to celebrate, publicize and promote the existence of the trail. The committee is made up of dedicated volunteers who work with the Amistad Committee, Inc. and CHC in developing activities that foster interest and involvement with the trail. Past events have included:

1998--CFT Bicycle Tour and Quilting Bee which resulted in the four CFT Quilts which are now on permanent display at the Raymond Baldwin Museum of Connecticut History in Hartford.

1999--CFT Gospel/Inspirational Music Festival which included performances by the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir of Atlanta, Georgia, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church Choir of Montgomery, Alabama, The New Jersey Fellowship Choir of Plainfield, New Jersey and choirs from churches included on the trail.

2000--Commemoration of Amistad captives buried in Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven which included participation by the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Tejan Kabbah.

In the area of research, many new topics have been explored, however, the hottest topic to date is that of Connecticut's Black Governors 1776-1856. This subject was brought to the attention of the Commission by eighth grade students from Lewis J. Fox Middle School in Hartford. During three years of archival research, the students and their teacher uncovered evidence that more than 300 Americans of African descent were interred in Hartford's Ancient Burying Ground, one of the oldest cemeteries in Connecticut. The students' research shed light on the fact that African Americans helped settle the Connecticut Colony and revealed that five "Black Governors" were buried in unmarked graves. To commemorate the more than 300 forgotten souls, a memorial marker and slate tablet inscribed with names and interment dates now stands in the cemetery. The students designed, selected materials, and raised funding for the monument.

Intrigued by the students' findings, the Connecticut Historical Commission hired a consultant to further explore the topic of the Black Governors. Since the students' research provided the names of 22 governors, the purpose of the new research was to identify and evaluate sites associated with the governors for possible inclusion on the Freedom Trail. The additional research revealed that from 1749 to 1856, 26 black governors were elected by the black population of Connecticut. The gravesite of Governor Boston Trotrow was located in the Old Norwichtown Burial Ground in Norwich, Connecticut. The inscription reads: "In memory of Boston TrowTrow, Govener of ye Affrican Trib, he died May 28, 1772 at 62." In New London, the grave of Flora, the wife of Governor Hercules was found. Her inscription reads: "Flora, wife of Hercules, Governor of the Negroes." It is anticipated that The Connecticut Black Governors' research report will be published during the summer of 2005.

The John E. Rogers African American Cultural Center (JERAACC) of Hartford has taken the lead in promoting the story of Connecticut 's Black Governors. Individuals have been recruited to portray the governors at various events sponsored by JERAACC including the Black Governors' Ball. This year, in addition to the ball, JERAACC will hold a reenactment of "LECTION" DAY.

As previously stated, there are now 100 sites in 42 towns on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. As research continues, new sites will be identified and added. It is hoped that those who visit some or all of the locations on the Freedom Trail will gain a greater appreciation for the experiences and contributions of Connecticut 's African Americans.

Essay by Cora Murray, Liason to Connecticut Freedom Trail, Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism

List of Sites

New London Customhouse
Austin F. Williams Carriagehouse and House
Stanley-Whitman House

New London Customhouse

The ragged, battered black hulled schooner La Amistad was first encountered off the coast of Montauk Point, Long Island, New York, on August 26, 1839, by the surveying brig USS Washington. On board were the surviving 39 adult African males, 4 children, the Creole cook, and two bound Spaniards, Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montez. The Mendians were arrested and the vessel was towed across the Thames River to New London, anchored offshore on August 27th. Dwight P. Janes, a New London grocer and outspoken abolitionist, boarded the captured schooner soon after it arrived in port; quickly determined that the "slaves" on board were not Spanish property but recent captives from Africa; and wrote abolitionist leader, Arthur Leavitt, asking him to obtain their freedom. Janes saw that the Africans could be freed in accordance with U.S. law and that their case would enlist sympathy for the abolitionist cause. If he had not made the firm, immediate demands for their release, the captives would have been handed back to their "owners" and never freed.

U.S. Federal district court judge Andrew T. Judson held an inquiry on board the Washington, and after hearing testimony decided to forward the case to a grand jury at the next session of the U.S. Circuit Court in Hartford, Connecticut. The Mendians were kept aboard the Amistad the next six days. In early September, they were transferred to an unnamed ship and transported to the New Haven Jail. At that point, the Amistad was moored at the former Lawrence Wharf (later rebuilt and now known as the Amistad Wharf), near the U.S. Customhouse, until it was sold 14 months later. The cargo of the Amistad was auctioned in the Customhouse on October 10, 1840, 14 months after the schooner's arrival.

The New London Customhouse was designed and built under the instructions of America's first Federal architect, Robert Mills, in 1833. Stately and stalwart, this Greek Revival style building fulfilled Andrew Jackson's demand for public buildings of that time to demonstrate democracy, strength, endurance and beauty to match the national spirit, faith and belief that the young Nation, as the United States, would last forever.

As the Amistad trial was a Federal case, and the Customhouse was the Federal building in New London, it may likely have been the scene of more Amistad events than have been recorded. The Customhouse currently displays documents of the ship's experience in New London, a scale model of the schooner Amistad, and official measurements, manifests and sales records of the ship and its cargo. Also displayed is a portrait of Admiral Lawyer Jirah Isham who attended all the trials and was responsible for the detention of the ship on the Thames River. A bronze plaque with the likeness of Cinque is attached to the exterior of the building to memorialize the Amistad Incident and the role New London played as the first step toward freedom on American shores for the Mende-Africans.

The New London Customhouse is located at 150 Bank St. in New London. It is now the Museum of American Maritime History, open May-December, Tuesday-Sunday from 1:00pm to 5:00pm, and by appointment January-April. There is a fee for admission. Call 860-447-2501 for further information

Old Statehouse

Designed by famed New England architect, Charles Bulfinch, and completed in 1796, the Old Statehouse was the first of Bulfinch's public buildings in his dignified Adamesque Federal style. The Hartford Convention of 1814, one the earliest debates on the sovereignty of states versus national sovereignty, was held here. The Amistad Trial began here on September 19, 1839, while the Mende were being held in the New Haven Jail, with preliminary hearings on the jurisdiction of the case by the U.S. Circuit Court and the lower District Court.

Between September 19 and 23, lawyers representing the Mende sought writs of habeas corpus (the release of a party from unlawful restraint) before the U.S. Circuit Court. Presiding Judge Smith Thompson denied this motion, and left disposition of the Mende to the U.S. District Court. At the same time, the District Court, also meeting in the Statehouse, ruled that the Africans could not be sold in the state of Connecticut as "salvage" against the claims of Ruiz and Montez, the planters who had bought the Africans in Cuba. The second round of the trial began here when the District Court, with Judge Andrew Judson presiding, met from November 19-20, but the court eventually postponed the hearing until January 7, 1840, when the court would meet in New Haven. The publicity surrounding these hearings increased sympathy for the Mende. The question still remained whether or not the Africans were legal Cuban slaves, and they remained in the New Haven jail. The hearings determined that the Africans' mutiny against the crew of the Amistad did not occur within U.S. boundaries. Therefore, the Africans could not be tried for mutiny and murder in this country.

During this two-month period in Hartford, before the change of venue to New Haven, Roger Sherman Baldwin, serving as defense lawyer for the Amistad Africans, developed the basis for his argument on behalf of the Africans that would lead to the U.S. Supreme Court judgment in 1841.

The Old Statehouse, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 800 Main St. in Hartford. The building is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm, Monday-Saturday. Call 860-522-6766 or visit the Old Statehouse website for further information. The Old Statehouse has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Connecticut State Library and Supreme Court Building

The Connecticut State Library and Supreme Court Building holds originial materials relating to the Amistad incident. The library and court building became an important repository of local and state archival material in the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as a reference library for legislators and the public. The library's growing collection prompted the construction of this 1910 Beaux-Arts style building. New York architect Donn Barber designed the building in relation to the nearby State Capitol, and was influenced by contemporary library design, notably the New York Public Library.

The State Library's collections include original printings of the arguments of Roger Sherman Baldwin and John Quincy Adams before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as a collection of abolitionist publications from the 1830s and 1840s such as The Charter Oak. The Museum of Connecticut History occupies a portion of the building, including Memorial Hall, the magnificently restored display gallery, and three adjoining exhibit areas. The museum focuses on Connecticut's government, military and industrial history. A recent addition to the museum's permanent collection is the Connecticut Freedom Trail Quilt, with the Amistad Incident as a central theme. The stunning quilt, the work of 186 quilters, contains 78 squares depicting historic moments along the Freedom Trail, Connecticut's African American heritage trail.

The Connecticut State Library and Supreme Court Building is located at 231 Capitol Ave. in Hartford. The library is open 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday and Saturday: 9:00am to 2:00pm. The Museum of Connecticut History is open 9:00am to 4:00pm, Monday-Friday and Saturday: 9:00am to 3:00pm. For further information call 860-566-3056 or visit the library's website.

New Haven Green

The New Haven Green, laid out in 1638, is one of the oldest in New England, and the setting for three churches erected on the east side of the Green between 1812 and 1816: Center Church and United Church (fine examples of the Federal Style) and Trinity Church (one of the first large Gothic Revival buildings in America). The Green functioned in the 19th century as New Haven's outdoor living room and meeting place, particularly for supporters of the Mende Africans. From September 1839 to August 1840 the Amistad survivors were incarcerated in the New Haven Jail, located on the east side of the New Haven Green. During their time here, the Mende were brought out of jail to exercise on the Green. Thousands of spectators, each paying 12 and a half cents admission, visited the jail to view the Amistad captives.

During the time the Mende were held in New Haven, the U.S. District Court convened here in January of 1840, after having postponed the Mende's hearing from their session in Hartford the previous fall. The court ruled that the Africans were not legally enslaved and placed the captives under the charge of U.S. President Martin Van Buren. The President ordered an appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court, which upheld the District Court's ruling when it also convened in New Haven that April. Awaiting a final hearing on the case by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Mende were transferred from New Haven to a warehouse in Westville in August of 1840.

The green is home to a new Amistad Memorial at the site of the former jail, which highlights significant episodes of the Amistad story in which Sengbe Pieh (Joseph Cinque) played a courageous role. The memorial is a reminder of the triumph over oppression and the victory of justice and brotherhood of the Amistad story.

The New Haven Green Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is roughly bounded by Chapel, College, Elm and Church sts. The green is the common property of the residents of New Haven, and a popular spot for walking, lunching, summer concerts and other events. Call 203-946-8027 for further information. United Church and Center Church have been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

United Church on the Green

Built in 1815, by architect David Hoadley, the United Church on the Green was originally known as North Church. In 1884, it merged with Third Church to create a United Church. Both congregations played an active role in the early abolition movement in the United States. Simeon Jocelyn, founding member of the Third Church, became one of the three founding members of the Amistad Committee formed to raise a defense for the Amistad captives. Committee members appealed to the public for both legal and living expenses throughout the trial. After the captives were freed, the Amistad Committee arranged for their return to Africa.

Roger Sherman Baldwin, a member of North Church and a New Haven attorney, offered his legal services to the captives. Over the course of two years, Baldwin successfully defended the Africans' right to freedom. Today a plaque within the church, dedicated to Baldwin and his father's memory, commemorates the active role this congregation member played during the Amistad Incident.

United Church on the Green is located at 323 Temple St. in the New Haven Green Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. The church is open on Sundays from 9:00am to 1:00pm with a service at 10:30am. It is also open by appointment. Call 203-787-4195 or visit the church's website for further information.

New Haven Colony Historical Society

The New Haven Colony Historical Society was founded in 1862 by a group of citizens interested in preserving the history of a community that was experiencing rapid change. The founders immediately began collecting contemporary artifacts, manuscripts, publications and photographs, in addition to material from the Colonial Era. The Historical Society constructed its present quarters in 1929. Designed by noted architect J. Frederick Kelly, the I-shaped building is one of New Haven's finest examples of the Colonial Revival style.

The New Haven Colony Historical Society's collections include a number of important items associated with the Amistad Case. Nathaniel Jocelyn's oil portrait of Cinque is the best likeness of the Amistad captives' charismatic leader. In addition, there is a mid-19th-century watercolor of the schooner La Amistad depicting the moment when the United States Navy's brig Washington prepared to take La Amistad into custody. The collection also includes documents and artifacts relating to the case.

The New Haven Colony Historical Society is located at 114 Whitney Ave. within the Hillhouse Avenue Historic District in New Haven. The museum is open 10:00am to 5:00pm, Tuesday-Friday, and 12:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday; the library is open 10:00am to 5:00pm, Tuesday-Friday. There is a fee for admission. Call 203-562-4183 for further information.

Austin F. Williams Carriagehouse and House

Austin F. Williams and his wife Jennet Cowles Williams were known abolitionists. During the Mende's imprisonment, Williams corresponded with his friend Lewis Tappan, a member of the Amistad Committee that had been established for the defense of the Amistad captives and was raising funds for their return home. Williams, Samuel Deming and John Treadwell Norton arranged for the Africans to be sheltered in Farmington after their release. Upon their arrival, the men and the one young boy, Kale, were housed on the second floor of Samuel Deming's store. More room was needed, and Williams offered to build a temporary living quarters for them.

The dormitory was erected in a communal barn raising on May 4, 1841, and served as the primary home for the African men during the rest of their stay in Farmington. This building is today the east section of the carriagehouse--the west section was added on after the Mende had returned to their homeland. The men worked in local agricultural fields during their stay.

Shortly after the Mende left, Williams built his own house slightly to the southeast and converted the dormitory to a carriagehouse, which remained in the Williams family until 1948. Oral tradition indicates that Williams was an Underground Railroad conductor and, along with other citizens, made the Farmington community a major Underground Railroad stop. After the Civil War, Williams was appointed director of the Freedman's Bureau of New England and New York and found housing and job opportunities for freed African Americans.

Austin F. Williams Carriagehouse and House, a National Historic Landmark , is located at 127 Main St. in Farmington. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.

The Austin F. Williams Carriagehouse and House are also highlighted in our Underground Railroad travel itinerary.

Noah Porter House

The Noah Porter House is one of several houses in this itinerary within the Farmington Historic District associated with the Mende's stay in Farmington. Houses in the historic district date from 1720 to 1835. Farmington was a prosperous commercial center and the 10th most populous town in the colonies at the time of the American Revolution.

Minister of the First Church of Christ from 1806 to 1866, Reverend Noah Porter was a strong believer in abolition and education. He held to his convictions and sermonized about them from his pulpit despite opposition from vocal anti-abolitionist factions in his church.

During the Mende's stay in Farmington, one of the three young girls, Margru, lived with the Porter family. Of all the Amistad Africans, Margru was the only one to return to the United States after the Mende journeyed back to Africa. She studied at Oberlin College and then returned to Sierra Leone where she spent her life as a teacher in a mission school.

Several of the Porter's seven children devoted their lives to education, as well. Their oldest daughter, Sarah, founded Miss Porter's School in 1843 and their son, Noah, became president of Yale College.

The Noah Porter House is located at 116 Main St. in the Farmington Historic District, roughly bounded by Porter and Mountain rds., Main and Garden sts., Hatter's and Hillstead lns. and Farmington Ave. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.

Timothy Cowles House

The Timothy Cowles House is one of several houses in this itinerary within the Farmington Historic District associated with the Mende's stay in Farmington. Houses in the historic district date from 1720 to 1835. Farmington was a prosperous commercial center and the 10th most populous town in the colonies at the time of the American revolution.

The three little girls who survived the Amistad rebellion lived with local families during their stay in Farmington. The Timothy Cowles family sheltered one of the girls. It is known that Margru stayed with the Noah Porter family, and Teme with the Horace Cowles family. Although her name is not recorded as such, the third girl, Kagne, is thus believed to have been sheltered by Timothy Cowles. Like the other Mende, Kagne would have attended school for five hours each morning and likely have participated in domestic activities of the Cowles family.

The Timothy Cowles House is located at 87 Main St. in the Farmington Historic District. Part of Miss Porter's School, a private girl's school, the house is not open to the public

Union Hall

In the 1830s and 1840s, Union Hall, then and now owned by the First Church of Christ, was commonly used for public meetings. The women of the congregation met there on March 24 and 25, 1841, to sew clothing for the Mende. Coming to Farmington from the New Haven jail after their victorious Supreme Court decision, the Mende Africans were poorly and sparsely clothed. The women made shirts, collars and vests, and tailors were hired to make trousers and jackets.

The hall was built in 1816 as the Academy, a secondary-level private school for both boys and girls, originally located on Main Street next to First Church. The building later served as a chapel as well as a gathering place. Both abolitionists and anti-abolitionists held meetings here.

Union Hall is located at 13 Hart St. in the Farmington Historic District. It is presently known as the Art Guild, and is open Tuesday and Fridays, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, and Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Call 860-677-6205 for further information.

First Church of Christ

The First Church of Christ, Congregational, the third building on this site, was designed by architect and master builder Judah Woodruff in 1771. It is the only original Congregational church in Connecticut with a side entry--the traditional, colonial New England plan for churches. The Greek Revival style church is well-known for its unusually slender and graceful steeple. Farmington abolitionists were prominent members of the congregation, and their minister, the Reverend Noah Porter, supported their cause.

On their arrival in Farmington on March 18, 1841, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the lower courts, the newly freed Mende were welcomed by the congregation at a meeting in this building. The meetinghouse was the center of civic and social activity in Farmington at the time the Amistad survivors lived in the town. Required by the defense committee to attend First Church of Christ, Congregational, the Mende attended Sunday services and oral tradition indicates they were seated in the balcony to the left of the pulpit, along with the other young people of the congregation. The Mende also were taken to different parts of New England and asked to participate in various fundraising events. With the money raised at these events, the defense committee hoped to establish a Christian missionary in Africa and pay for the Mende's transportation back to their homeland. Within a few months, it became clear that the Mende were anxious to return home.

Shortly before the Mende returned to Sierra Leone, friends from Farmington and eight surrounding towns gathered at the church for a farewell service on November 17, 1841. At this service, Cinque spoke; Kinna, Kale, Fooli and Margru read from the Bible; and all the Amistad survivors sang a hymn. More than $1,300 was pledged at this service for a special collection to help defray the expense of returning to Africa and for the planned Christian mission in Sierra Leone.

The First Church of Christ, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 75 Main St. in Farmington. It is open to the public; regular services are held Sunday at 10:00am. Call 860-677-2601 or visit the church’s website for further information. The First Church of Christ has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Samuel Deming House

The Samuel Deming House, c. 1768, is one of several houses in this itinerary within the Farmington Historic District associated with the Mende's stay in Farmington. Houses in the historic district date from 1720 to 1835. Farmington was a prosperous commercial center and the 10th most populous town in the colonies at the time of the American revolution.

Samuel Deming was one of Farmington’s leading abolitionists. Along with Austin Williams and John Treadwell Norton, Deming supported the Amistad Africans during their trials and arranged to bring the Mende to Farmington after the trial while funds were raised to send them back to Sierra Leone. Deming was a legislator, merchant, farmer and one of the town’s most respected citizens and churchmen. He was a member of the Farmington Anti-Slavery Society, and a founder, with Norton, Williams and Horace Cowles, of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society in 1838.

His home, in the center of the town, has been traditionally known as a stop on the Underground Railroad (see our Underground Railroad itinerary)--a place where runaway slaves could seek refuge--and many freedom seekers were hidden there over the years. His wife, Catherine, was notable among the many local women who raised money and signed petitions to help the abolitionist and Amistad causes. Now owned by Miss Porter’s School, the house is marked by a plaque identifying it with Thomas Hart Hooker, its original builder and owner. Deming also made space available over his store (originally located on Main Street next to his home, later move around the corner to its present location at 2 Mill Lane) for sleeping quarters when the Mende Africans first arrived. Throughout their stay that space also served as their classroom.

The Samuel Deming House is located at 66 Main St. in the Farmington Historic District. Part of a Miss Porter’s School, a private girl’s school, the house is not open to the public

Horace Cowles House

The Horace Cowles House, c. 1769, is one of several houses in this itinerary within the Farmington Historic District associated with the Mende's stay in Farmington. Houses in the historic district date from 1720 to 1835. Farmington was a prosperous commercial center and the 10th most populous town in the colonies at the time of the American revolution.

Horace Cowles, an early advocate of abolition, was a prominent member of the Missionary and Anti-Slavery Societies formed in Farmington in the 1830s, and purportedly an Underground Railroad stationmaster. Many of the officers of the Hartford County Anti-Slavery Society and of the Connecticut Society were Farmington abolitionists and included Cowles, John Treadwell Norton, Samuel Deming and Austin Williams, all of whom were involved in assisting escaped slaves for many years. These were the men who brought the freed Mende to Farmington after the trial.

While the Mende men were lodged together, the three small Mende girls were placed with sympathetic Farmington families. One of the three Mende girls, believed to be Teme (or Tamie) lived with the Cowles family. She attended school with the other Mende for five hours each morning and also learned domestic skills with the family’s children. Teme also lived with another Farmington resident, J. M. Brown, but exactly when is not known--possibly towards the end of the Mende’s eight-month stay in Farmington, by which time Horace Cowles had became ill. Cowles died the following year, and the property was inherited by Samuel Smith Cowles, who continued his father’s Underground Railroad work. He also edited an anti-slavery newspaper, The Charter Oak, and published several anti-slavery books.

The Horace Cowles House is located at 27 Main St. in the Farmington Historic District. It is a private home and is not open to the public.

Stanley-Whitman House

The Stanley-Whitman House dates from 1720 but incorporates earlier features typical of late-17th-century work. One of few surviving 17th- century frame houses in New England, it is a classic New England saltbox, with its typical long, sloping roof to the rear, central chimney, framed second-story overhang with pendants and diamond-paned sash windows.

The house is currently a museum, highlighting the town’s 18th- and 19th-century history, including three Amistad related items: a “Kitchen Directory,” stating which Mende were to perform which household tasks on certain days, a watercolor of “Josheph Cinquez” and a letter from the Mende to John Quincy Adams. Also in the museum’s collection are a canteen carved from a coconut shell (said to have been used on the Amistad) and a buttermold said to have been carved by Cinque. These items may be seen by appointment.

The Stanley-Whitman House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 37 High St. in Farmington. The museum is open Monday-Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Tours of the house are offered May-October, Wednesday-Sunday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm and November-April on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Call 860-677-9222 or visit the house’s website for further information. The Stanley-Whitman House has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Learn More

By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular section:
Links to Farmington, Hartford, New Haven and New London Tourism and History
Links to Websites of Places Featured in this Itinerary and Amistad Related Sites
Selected Bibliography for Amistad
Children's Books

Links to Farmington, Hartford, New Haven, New London and Connecticut Tourism and History

Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism
Protecting resources that are windows on the past is the job of the Historic Preservation and Museum Division of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, a state agency established in 2004,  in accordance with Public Act 03-6 of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Farmington, Connecticut
Learn about the community, government and tourist opportunities available in historic Farmington, Connecticut.

Hartford, Connecticut
One of the many links on this informative page leads to an order form for a free visitor's guide. Dining and accommodations can be reached from here as well.

West Hartford Chamber of Commerce
The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce webpage has a "Places to See" page that explores historic, cultural and entertainment sites.

New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven's guide to economic development, government, parks and schools.

Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce
A guide to the hotels, museums, entertainment and festivals in the greater New Haven area.

New London, Connecticut
City government, general information, community, businesses and tourist information.

Chamber of Commerce Eastern Connecticut
Promoting a regional identity, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut (which covers the area of New London) has links to Connecticut tourism.

Welcome to Connecticut Tourism
An excellent site to help the vacation bound discover Connecticut's treasures.

Connecticut Main Street Center
Connecticut Main Street Center is the state's leading resource for cities and towns seeking to comprehensively revitalize their main street districts and is committed to bringing Connecticut's commercial districts back to life, socially and economically.

Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, founded by special act of the Connecticut General Assembly in 1975, works to preserve the character and ensure the vitality of Connecticut's historically significant places.

Connecticut State Parks and Forests
The diversity and splendor of Connecticut's state parks and forests offers everything in a vacation.

Adams National Historical Park
Located in Quincy, Massachusetts, approximately 10 miles south of Boston, Adams NHS interprets five generations of the Adams family (from 1720 to 1927) including Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President and one of the lawyers for the Mende Africans.

Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor
This National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Connecticut and south central Massachusetts has been called "the last green valley" in the Boston-to-Washington megalopolis. Close to Hartford, Providence and Worcester, but far enough away to avoid urban sprawl, this 1086 square mile region administered by the National Park Service remains predominately rural.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Discover the the Appalachian National Scenic Trail as it winds through Connecticutt--administered by the National Park Service.

Weir Farm National Historic Site
Administered by the National Park Service, see how the environment of American Impressionist painter J. Alden Weir's (1852 – 1919) Connecticut farm provided him with the means to explore his artistic impressions of nature.

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)
The HABS/HAER program documents important architectural, engineering and industrial sites throughout the United States and its territories. Their collections, including some of the places highlighted in this itinerary, are archived at the Library of Congress and available online. You can view these by clicking on the link above and entering search the names of the four towns highlighted in this itinerary.

National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers
The professional association of the State government officials who carry out the national historic preservation program as delegates of the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national nonprofit preservation organization.

Historic Hotels of America
A feature of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heritage Traveler program that provides information on historic hotels and package tours in the vicinity of this itinerary.

National Park Service Office of Tourism
National Parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest days. This website highlights the ways in which the National Park Service promotes and supports sustainable, responsible, informed, and managed visitor use through cooperation and coordination with the tourism industry.

National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Merritt Parkway website for more ideas.

Links to Websites of Places Featured in this Itinerary and Amistad Related Sites

Amistad America
Mystic Seaport and their Exploring Amistad website
Old Statehouse
Connecticut State Library and Supreme Court Building
The Connecticut Historical Society
United Church on the Green

Miss Porter's School for Girls (owner of several sites in Farmington)
First Church of Christ
Stanley-Whitman House

Selected Bibliography for Amistad

Amistad Committee. The Amistad Revolt : Struggle for Freedom. New Haven, Conn.: Amistad Committee, 1993.

Fage, J.D. and William Tordoff. A History of Africa. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Horton, James Oliver and Lois E. Horton. In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks . New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Jones, Howard. Mutiny on the Amistad: the Saga of a Slave Revolt and its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy. Oxford University Press, 1987.

Kolchin, Peter. American Slavery: 1619-1877. New York, New York: Hill and Wang, 2003.

Myers, Walter Dean. Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom. London: Puffin Books, 2001.

Nagel, Paul C. John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Pesci, David. Amistad. New York, New York: Marlowe & Co, 1997.

Osagie, Iyunolu Folayan. The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone. Athens, Georgia:University of Georgia Press, 2000.

Stewart, James Brewer. Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery. New York, New York: Hill and Wang Press, 1997.

Children's Books

Chambers, Veronica and Paul Lee (illustrator). Amistad Rising: A Story of Freedom.
San Diego, California: Harcourt Children's Books, 1998.

Myers, Walter Dean. Amistad: a Long Road to Freedom. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 1998.

Sterne, Emma Gelders. The Story of the Amistad (Dover Juvenile Classics). Mineola, New York: 2001.

Zeinert, Karen. The Amistad Slave Revolt and American Abolition. North Haven, Connecticut: Linnet Books, 1997.


Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut was produced by the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places in partnership with the communities of Farmington, Hartford, New Haven and New London, Connecticut, the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism (formerly Connecticut Historical Commission) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Patrick W. Andrus, Heritage Tourism Program Manager, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Managing Editor. Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut is based on the information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These materials are kept at 1201 Eye St., NW, Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 9:00am to 12:00pm, Monday through Thursday.

Les Brodacki (Principal Planner, City of Hartford) conceptualized and coordinated the development of the originail draft of this itinerary, sponsored by the Hartford Historic Properties Commission. Jeremiah Stevenson and Katie Modzelewski (Trinity College) provided substaintial assistance, and worked with the communties of Farmington, Hartford, New Haven and New London to develop the project. and coordinated by National Register web production team members included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin Quaide and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Maps were designed by Rustin Quaide. Property descriptions were drafted by our community partners, and edited by Shannon Bell. Additional information for some of the properties was provided by Barbara Donahue, working with Cora Murray and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. Essays were drawn from a variety of sources: Amistad Story and Timeline were reprinted from John Quincy Adams & The Amistad Event, produced by Adams National Historical Park, NPS; Slave Trade was exerpted from the Underground Railroad Resources in the United States National Historic Landmarks Theme Study, also used by Shannon Bell in her compilation of materials to write Connecticut Abolitionists; and Connecticut Freedom Trail was written by Cora Murray.

Special thanks to Maya Harris, David Powell, Ken Schwartz, Peter Gillespie, Lucille Schowalter, Benjamin Martin, Richard Salews, Maria Hileman, Barry Lubin, John C. Clark III, Jonathan Clark, Abraham Davis, Carl Henry, Jr., Roberta Huber, Maurine Plettner, Theodore Tucci, Deirdre Bibby, Jeremy Barrows, Wilson Faude, Kathleen Hunter, Aaron Wartner, Barbara Alleyne, David Corrigan, John Herzan, Eugene Leach, Judith Shiff, Rev. Louise Higginbotham, Alfred Marder, Robert Egleston, Robert Forbes, Ronald Bernard, Marguerite Yung, James King, and Peter Glankoff.

Photo credits for the home page include: moving ship courtesy of Richard Salews, Niantic, CT; map and portrait of John Quincy Adams courtesy of clipart.com; middle passage image courtesy of National Park Service, Southeast Archeological Center; and mutiny aboard the Amistad credited to Barber, John W., compiler. "A History of the Amistad Captives: Being a Circumstantial Account of the Capture of the Spanish Schooner Amistad..." New Haven, Ct.: E.L. & J.W. Barber, 1840. African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, Library of Congress; photo of the new Amistad courtesy of Chad Lyons, www.AmistadAmerica.org; State Library and Supreme Court Building courtesy of the Museum of Connecticut History; Supreme Court Decision is courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, RG 267; composite image of Cinque is by James or Isaac Sheffield. New York: Moses Y. Beach, 1839. Lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-12960 (1-26) Library of Congress.

 [graphic] Link to Slave Trade Essay
 [graphic] Link to Amistad Story Essay  [graphic] Link to Timeline of Events Essay
 [graphic] Amistad Essays
 [graphic] Link to Connecticut Abolitionist Essay   [graphic] Link to Connecticut Freedom Trail Essay

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