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Conn. To Sell Amistad Replica

(AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

The state of Connecticut is selling official flagship, a replica of La Amistad.  The original Amistad was a Spanish slave ship. In 1839, it was carrying 53 African captives from Havana, Cuba to a Cuban sugar plantation to be sold into slavery.

“They picked the locks that were holding them captive, and they overtook the vessel,” said Captain James Peters, who recounted the story of the Amistad revolt to a group of tourists on the replica ship.

Peters said the African natives killed the captain, and tried to sail back to Africa. The ship ended up off the coast of Long Island’s Montauk Point, where the U.S. Navy waylaid it and forced it to dock in New London.

“They docked right next to us, at what’s now called the Amistad pier," Peters said. " And they were arrested, and the trials began.”

They were tried for murder and mutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court found they acted in self-defense as free men. They were released, and the ship became a symbol of America’s anti-slavery movement at a time when it was illegal to import slave labor but slavery still existed in the U.S.

The state of Connecticut made the Amistad replica its official flagship in 2003 to serve as an educational tool. The state pays hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to subsidize it. Last year, the state took control of it after learning that the company that owned the replica was more than $2 million in debt. That was, in part, due to financial mismanagement and expensive trips to events in the Caribbean and Africa. The state recently got permission from a Superior Court judge to sell it. Len Miller is part of the group that’s planning to buy it. He says they want to work with schools in Connecticut to teach students about the slave trade.

“Bringing them on that ship and asking them, can you imagine 53 kids, never mind adults, living on this ship? Can you imagine one day, being taken from your home?  There’s nothing like seeing something like that and realizing, yes, that did happen,” Miller said.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.
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