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Amistad Memorial

Standing before this statue beside New Haven’s City Hall is a humbling experience. Most New Haveners know a little bit about the Amistad, but the full weight of this history is not often told.

A group of Mende people were kidnapped from Sierra Leone in the 1830s and brought to the Americas. It is important to remind people that in 1807 the African slave trade was abolished, and yet slavers continued to kidnap people and sell them into slavery. That is, the enslavement of these men was not only immoral, it was also illegal.

On board the Amistad, 53 Mende originally from Sierra Leone, were being taken from Havana, Cuba to a sugar plantation on the other side of the island. A few days into the voyage, with Sengbe Pieh “Cinque” as their leader, the Mende captives rose up, taking over the ship by killing most of the slavers. After two months at sea, the ship arrived in the port of Long Island, and the Mende men were taken into custody and charged with murder. When they arrived in New Haven in September of 1839, the 43 Mende people who had survived the journey were marched from Long Wharf to the jail right here below City Hall where this statue stands today. New Haven residents lined the streets to watch their arrival. Colonel Stanton Pendleton, the jailer, charged people money to come see the Mende people.

The Mende did not accept being enslaved or being imprisoned. They fought their charges in court, arguing their capture and enslavement was illegal. Eighteen-year-old James Covey, from Sierra Leone communicated with the Mende men and translated their defense to their lawyer. After several trials, which the Mende won, but which were appealed by US President Martin Van Buren, the Supreme Court finally ruled in 1841 that the Mende captives were not guilty. Justice Joseph Story commented calling the Mende: “kidnapped Africans, who, by the laws of Spain itself, are entitled to their freedom.” At last, the Mende were free again. Many of those on board the Amistad would later move to Farmington, Connecticut for abolitionist support. In late November of 1841, 35 of the original 53 captives returned to their home in Sierra Leone.

A Peoples' History of the Hill
  1. The Hill Intro
  2. Long Wharf
  3. Directions to Jackson Newspaper Protest Site
  4. Jackson Newspaper Protest
  5. Directions to Trowbridge Square Park
  6. Trowbridge Square Park
  7. Directions to Evergreen Cemetery
  8. Evergreen Cemetery
  9. Directions to Lee High School
  10. Lee High School
  11. Directions to Oak Street Connector
  12. Oak Street Connector
  13. Directions to Temple Street Congregational Church
  14. Temple Street Congregational Church
  15. Directions to the Green (Columbus Day Protests)
  16. Columbus Day Protests
  17. UPDATE: Columbus Protest Victories
  18. Directions to the Green (Occupy Movement)
  19. Occupy Wall Street Movement
  20. Directions to the Green (CT Students for a Dream)
  21. C4D Dream Summit on the Green
  22. Directions to Amistad Memorial
  23. Amistad Memorial
  24. Directions to City Hall
  25. City Hall - Elm City Resident Card
  26. Directions to New Guinea
  27. New Guinea
  28. Directions to Superior Courthouse
  29. Superior Courthouse - Black Panther Trials
  30. Stay at the Courthouse
  31. Superior Courthouse - Support for Corey Menafee
  32. Directions Back to Trowbridge Square Park or Long Wharf
  33. End of the Hill Tour