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Monday, November 10, 2008

Amistad: Seeking Freedom in Connecticut

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.

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