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     Interview with Quentin Snediker, Amistad project coordinator, Mystic
    Seaport Museum
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and williams the case is important for two reasons fundamentally was the first human rights case found in favor of people of color by the nuns that sprint corp secondly what it served to do is it galvanized the often diverse abolitionist movement to one focus and that's probably where the significance the amistad committee rallied into the american missionary association after the africans returned to their online and the american that bashir association became the principal voice for abolition in the pre civil war fb this business exactly the same case was really a tremendously important media event of eighteen thirty nine newspapers all over the country to cover the case of the amistad and the arm in terms of the abolitionist movement that
focused brought the plight of captive africans an enslaved people to the national discussion on the whole slew and at thirty nine although the importation of newly tapped of africans foreign slave meant a new world was recognized as illegal activity was still done in a clandestine manner it's estimated that about twenty five thousand individuals were smuggled into cuba our annual basis of that i became the principal on proposed for further distribution of captive africans from slip into the rest of the world from about other was not a leader and brazil war into texas on a wall once now for further distribution
yeah most of the activity was conducted on foreign vessels later there's an increase in in eighteen thirty nine most of the actual importation of africans was done on foreign flagged vessels it's important to recognize that there was a tremendous amount of subterfuge involved where vessels often carried dual nationality is american vessels were immune from boarding by the british slave blockading vessels and therefore many vessels while foreign owned carry american documents american flags it was a complex system of illegal activity and all that allowed this to happen complicity of our customs officials especially in cuba are allowed us to pledge your best question again
it was a tremendous involvement on the part of us capitol in supplying the vessels for the transatlantic slave trade many the vessels were foreign flagged but they had their margins in us ports baltimore new york and boston where principal the well i yeah its problems to sing there was taken because of the debt that was ode to a merchant wow that was a little slow and being paid so in lieu of payment it was kidnapped by that margin and then sold in turn to another slave trader who brought him to the coast in this yellen was a book pedro blanco was the principal slave trader involved in amistad case and
he had embarked about three hundred individual support the portuguese slave and wrestled korea with a break that two hundred times and that's the vessel that brought the mandate captives from sierra leone too what the conditions of the people ok well i think that the kora was very typical of what we know today is in middle passage slave ship i think the conditions on board are just unimaginable in terms of the inhumanity with which the captives were treated very little space are maybe as little as five or six square feet of space per individual and three hundred individuals and bargain is rather small vessel for a voyage last approximately two months i don't think we can imagine how horrible these conditions must've been after after two
month voyage across the atlantic they wound up in havana where they were brought ashore and brought to a slave market it was held there for about ten days and then sold in turn fifty three of them sold in turn to lisa mont is who had shot at the postings for amistad to take the captives from of out to the elk or a principle and what they want they were still in prison day they were destined for of the fifty three captives in war the amistad for young children and forty nine were adult males they were destined for their sugarcane industry which was but the most horrible of the slave experience in the world and a different individual was really only expected to last about seven years in that industry
was just the conditions of work that only the treatment that they received were just you know abominable in an attempt to start a prince but this is what we want to have a rich area they would've been further sold to plantation owners for the first an industry in eastern cuba the sugar industry was some of the worst slave experience in the new world an individual really was unexpected about seven years of useful working wife in that industry because conditions are so hard yeah yeah when everything's reconsider what's really have the africans reached principal owed bore the amistad they would've been further sold into the fruit and industry
ought to a plantation ours the shooter game industry at that time was some of the most horrible conditions of slavery in the new world one individual was really only expected to last about seven years of viable working time in history because conditions were so hard that this is this is these caucuses work and what religious precipitated the event on war the us that the cooks o'steen oh who was the legal human slave property of captain farrar target the africans join them when they reached their destination they would be cooked and eaten that's what inspired the mandate to do on the leaderships and day to rise against the
my sense is that it it really was one of the great trepidation on both sides that was sixty souls on board the amistad wanted a part of an awful was expected to be a two to afford a voyage today's out the opportunity arose for saying they dictate the vessel the way it occurred the first time i killed was so stay know the cook because he threatened to cook and eat them when they arrived in principle next event after that the death of so stay no the africans move that would encounter the captain kept in for our third point shot one the captives did and wooly on farrar killing one of the captives did they fall on him with the chicken lives in there and to look at them there was the end the carnage from there to recruit hispanics grew the dead hands are escape in a small boat and leaving only in montana's and release on board with the captives so once command zhou
who was in church and what i will say that was clearly the leader but one says had been a merchant captain of similar vessels himself so new technology new navigation and knew the waters for a clearly so this relationship develop between sing them on tears where they had to cooperate despite their differences and after about our three weeks of sailing around the bahamas to ensure food and water want is having very good knowledge of where they were at about three weeks of this they finally got out in the open sea and at that point then separate desperate onboard know this is the truth and so when this was simply want to sing than it happens noted on the corals that they would stay away from the rising sun
is big the what was it he had a clear intention of same day in taking the amistad was to attempt to sail back to their home live in west africa in order to accomplish this he needed the cooperation of montezuma ways the voyage they have a lot more traffic the clear intention on sunday and amend and taking the amistad was to attempt to sell back
to their homeland but in order to do so they depend on the cooperation of mom tears in ways want is clear intention was to keep the vessel closed of anna hopefully to fall in with and military vessel that can relieve them of situation war to land in the southwest united states the slave states that would ultimately return their property and want to write what they conceived as their rightful owners voyage and they took the form of these conflicting interests by day they appeared to be a big factor in these were direction towards africa by night and every other opportunity want is would reverse that direction with a wound up doing is basically being entrapped in the bomb islands for about three weeks of the two month voyage to assure trading when the opportunity allowed for food and water but still this alternating between the eastwood intention and the west were intention ultimately led to all the vessel finance weather long
hours this is why they say after about three weeks of trading for food and water the bahamas they ultimately find the way clear the bomb is now going to open say and this is when things were pretty desperate want is to realize that that point that their chances of falling in with some rescue become greatly diminished there's no source of freshwater food that is running short and things become pretty desperate on board now around this time there are reports of people in this political scientists tell me about what the emergence of the csc and now it's back to america or by early august they start to get into what's known as the bite of new york there's a tremendous amount of merchant shipping a matter of vessels traversing from along the east coast start running with amistad and i begin to report it into the customs house when they arrive in their destinations
in mid august a number of new your pilot's connors fall and the pianist that one of them even takes in tow for a short time and again when they returned to the airport new york the report this information to the customs house and to the newspapers so knowledge of the honest as being off our shores becomes the subject of great speculation and first knowledge amistad incident reached new york in new york newspapers in early august so there was some knowledge that a slave knew they had occurred on us spanish coasting vessel and was so if you're off our shores there's a lot of different perspectives taken by newspapers and commerce before the vessel was actually taken speculates that these are free man captured against their will and forced into slavery whereas other newspapers take the position that these are blood thirsty savage is that the pirates and the vessel starts to take on the personality of being a very ruthless for a heart
or horrible pirate ship the way which is not all it is yeah that's it's described as the long low like schooner and out where the newspapers it and points out that the longer that the vessel look so far shore is the more fierce it's going to become is because the exaggeration growing daily so when the africans one is what really is the issue this christmas ok well first of all understanding the history of the slave trade during that after eating away was illegal for individual there are rebecca after eighteen nineteen it was illegal for newly captive africans to be imported into the slave trade even amount of cuba so this was clearly a violation of international law
what he did for the abolitionists isn't gave them a focal point to rally public attention to their cars and also gave a sense of humanity to the individuals involved and this these were no longer just anonymous slaves they suddenly took on personalities as the abolitionist movement in the women started he will communicate for the florida with one interesting things is the land they don't speak portuguese don't speak spanish speak english so how well as of the fact that the the man they spoke know translate a line which isn't as wars and that is this book the portuguese spanish or english they only have their native tongue was clear evidence that they were fresh from africa and not legal slaves on the island of cuba
further it was the efforts of the abolitionist have to seek out and locate people who could speak from an airline which you know to translate their side of the story most clearly everyone's rapidly learn the spanish side of the story in this book was really african government's ability to communicate their perspective that i was a very girly focus of josiah gives only a linguistics professor who made his intention to learn to translate them and airline which he went down to new york again we are being josiah gives a linguistics professor at yale made it is charged to find a translator for the mandate he did so by learning to count one to ten in the mandate tongue been going down in new york harbor and walking the box telling one to ten until someone recognize the line which he fell in with a a young man named james covering who himself had been captured as a slave on the west coast of africa but fortunately returned to freetown sierra leone were as educated in
english when he reached the age sixteen he signed aboard a british slave blockading vessel called the buzzer buzzing quit suddenly came to new york harbor with two american flagged vessels who'd been arrested for being involved in the slave trade in west africa brought them to new york for adjudication covey found himself walking the dogs matches side gives with the permission of the captain the buzzard came to move to heaven to become a translator for the man who movies we have the ability to speak to they all say that in the new haven we can't ok in new haven yale students and clergy from the first churches around
hiv and green relatively african support and began to teach them english language remarkably how quickly they learn to speak english and to write english and from there gave the abolitionists the ability to communicate their individual stories help further and further open to rally them support us visibly no telling know very clear evidence of very clearly speaking of there their plight their desire to return that online and it imparts a great deal of humanity to the issue of enslavement in this country but that the emotional well missing family and friends becomes very open eloquently expressed by the africans and furthers the abolitionist cause
yeah well after after the district court announces decisions that decision to free africans immediately appeal by these an impression on roger sherman baldwin and the other abolitionists realize that to argue before the supreme court they need a man of great stature they peel john quincy adams to assist them in our cars why while adams was seventy five and nearly blind at the time but he was so incensed by the executive branch of government appealing against the decision of the judge and judicial branch that inspired you to take the case well his visit is our unit was very eloquent
and last about eight hours the essence of his points were that these people were free men held against their will even against spanish law and therefore have a right to have taken arms to protect that right well it's really a statement of new cases what was the news her family was the first time that the nie says supreme court recognized the rights of people of color when i said it's just a sense of what it is the us and what that involves
they had no idea of the africans had no idea that there were find themselves in the middle of the great controversy that the issue of evolution was in this country their initial impression was that it was a free nation and therefore that then they should be returned to their online however because of a complicated issues that we face in the country ourselves that if caught up and all of this and lost armed reconcile themselves the difference between why they are still held for trial when fundamentally the nation's three nation or a state by state ok well basically say quite clearly based on the very humanity of the issue that they want to return to their homeland that they miss their families and their friends and that the many people have not done anything to the united states or any of our citizens so why is it that they can just simply return to their homeland
and this becomes a recurring theme in their correspondence and they're speaking to the abolitionists this is true what saved me have the ability to speak and writing life they can easily quite clearly their desire to return home they see your grill dilemma and the fact that they are in a free territory it are not allowed to return home or health trial they have and they seek an understanding as to why it is says they've done nothing in violation of our laws mandate people haven't heard any americans in any way why they're not allowed to return to their homelands they miss their families they miss their friends and they're simply won a return to their home i want to as well before this isn't there's a lot of
speculation about what the highest education system a sense of how widespread the largest cases and what the person and that the case really is a significant media of that in eighteen thirty nine most major newspapers around the country are covering this and they all have an editorial opinion based on there's a regional focus when newspapers had a very gentle attitude that these are human beings individuals are entitled to their freedom or as southern papers begin to point to the various positions of their workers at that they are slaves who violated law they murdered committed piracy and should be returned to the proper spanish farmers this is paul argued back and forth new york various newspapers to various positions its cherished in the fall
where is the problem was a great victory for the abolitionist position that these individuals within found free man and allowed to return their online it was the first time in our state's supreme court recognized individuals but you use it describe this the first the first accounts of this that reached from your paper is really exaggerated numbers that of about twenty five white seven been murdered in the slave knew they way out of proportion to what the reality was in addition to the blood thirstiness of the lovely the vessel they are described as pirates and describe his cannibals he really great
exaggeration of the facts matter but people do i think is a great deal of apprehension yard shipping in the area becomes again because it described as pirates become somewhat afraid of encountering the amistad and again the whole image of a rebellious group of africans all for close to something very frightening to the population it's just david a vix invasive carries with him in his persona is immediately recognizable man is a true leader just thinking the experience to be a rally his fellow men day on board the amistad get these people through horrible ordeal of two months without her with very little food and
water and ultimately bringing back their online man of tremendous leadership character about him he's the pope well he's he's citizen in his early twenties he's the song of a monday headline is not a king or princes sometimes sport trade but he's used to a position of leadership in his community and that becomes very clearly across in his ability to bring this to a successful conclusion and returning thirty five of them surviving back to their homeland last year the free black community in new haven rally to support the africans as well manning pennington was a clergyman himself an escaped slave rallies and commits himself
to establishing a mission in then they land on the return of africans and accompanies them back to sierra leone it is after the trials decided the evidence declared free but they have no means by which to return to their home wine so the abolitionists three blocks reverend pat pennington from new haven of free blood escaped slave himself will rally to help them find the financial means to charter vessels return home
the pain late eighteenth thirties growing into the fifties and sixties a yachting became a very popular pastime for the very well off capitalists of the country their yachts were objects the extreme advance of technology and shipbuilding became some of the fastest human in the world that you were aware at the time all wander and was built nineteen fifty seven bye man and roland for colonel johnson from the ones and they are and was really one of the fastest this is a float with the daughter of a launch sales which is intended at the time ever designed the water was intended at the time ever going to be a big most advanced over time and she was she was about a hundred and twenty feet
on dec twenty six feet of being fluttered a tremendous for sale and was probably the fastest thing afloat in her day well yelling at the time was really characterized by expert appointments on board actually joinery find words very elegant appointments and i wonder was again the paradigm over time five one and carpets china paul roads all i'll sit here but she wouldn't fit with a very fine appointments china carpets silver expert joyner a very fine woodworking throughout exotic woods
and wonder as i say was really an exquisite example of that in
the end the water didn't build a meeting fifty seven by shipbuilder bundle of roland in port jefferson wrong long island for colonel john johnson of the wall ones and the johnsons demand wasn't the vessel be about the finest thing afloat at the time she was a richly appointed just actually elegant every detail not only was she large carried tremendous spurt of sale which is very elegantly appointed she'd find joinery down below carpets over china should just an absolute gem and the intention of being very ostentatious now there's some speculation that because the ship was so embarrassing because it couldn't race in this class mail for some big part of it to some degree speculation to say that it was in johnson's mind to ultimately see the vessel wind up as nefarious as she turned out to be but she certainly did
have the capability of being as fast as any vessel afloat and is reputed to have the name was so as much as twenty knots which would be faster than a steam or that would've been available of the time so for that reason she would make an excellent vessel to evade the blockade and make it to the us or is it you speed in in a vessel that was running the illegal slave trade was important for two reasons number one you had to evade the british vessels are blockading the west african coast to prevent the slave trade the way that the faster you could get their human cargo across the atlantic the less chance there was for the death of her taking a carbon it's estimated that maybe twenty percent of the individuals on board most middle passage slave ships would've perished in transit don't know
where there's a sense of crisis in america it's been years later it was impossible in this late era it's really impossible to define exactly how many vessels and only individuals were involved in the trade because it was done so clandestinely it's estimated that as many as seventy vessels and the us flag were engaged in the trans atlantic slave trade a time with most of those vessels being owned or controlled by capitol in new york baltimore or boston principal in new york so we just listened to his name the biggest port in the new world at the top
all kinds of maritime traffic walter commodities business it was a bun eating fifties new york was the largest port in the male world are literally thousands of ships coming and going oh man all basis because as activity the clandestine activity of slave vessels could be to some extent masked by all of this activity not only were their great volume of activity and ships but there were ships available for sale or where crews are willing to dissipate in astray all the commodities that were needed you know to barber are portrayed for the purchase of captive africans was all found in westport conn was this business this way he remembers it was tremendously profitable for those who are willing to engage and it's not uncommon
and this was a terribly this was a very lucrative trade for those individuals will willing to engage and it was not uncommon for successful voyage to nick better than fifty percent profit including the initial capital cost of the vessel so was a tremendous amount of money at stake here and that was the incentive that kept her nefarious individuals engaged in a trip like this in this air it's estimated there are about seventy us vessels engaged in the african slave trade an estimated that about ten or twelve vessels were added from the port of new york each year to their stand its border to that this wasn't only for trafficking captives into united states ports but american flight vessels were used to carry captive africans to cuba and to brazil as well
the wonder years he's out carol johnson was a member of the new york yacht club and when he sold the vessel to get them when cory of charleston on his recommendation corey was made a member of the american opera he fit the vessel out for the slave trade by installing tremendous volumes of water tanks some eyebrows and so much suspicion that the us was actually arrested in new york and held for a time corey convince the authorities that he had no intention of engaging in the slave trade the vessel was too finely appointed for such purposes and he was like you know took the vessel charleston where he further fit the vessel out with the various commodities are needed as rice and lumber are some dried beef and then from
charleston sell for the west coast of africa well i'm good in identifying a vessel as a slave or there were certain things that were very all of evocative vessel potentially to engage in a trip number one huge volumes of freshwater faraway above what will be no more for a crew on a vessel that size eleven was the large numbers of cruel a typical slaving voyage would have signed on board half again or maybe twice as many crews would be necessary to selling of them an honest rating vessel in addition to food water and crew there were other things such as lumber on board slave and russell stover slaves in a manner that would reduce mortality temporary slave decks were built in the upper part of the game the vessel hold and longer sufficient for that construction was again were telltale signs of a vast
potential involvement in this trip mr sullivan yes the signs that a vessel had the potential to be involved in the trade were no one huge volume of freshwater far away above would be nicer if a crew on board large volumes of food mostly rice oh four when her utensils for feeding large numbers of people in excess of those individuals on board one were necessary to build the slave decks which with a temporary decks constructed inside of vessels hold in order to accommodate the individuals who are being brought across a black all these things were all these science to either a customs agent a martial or some the british blockading vessels of are inspecting vessels operating on the coast so these are things like lead to unrest began assessing speed and well organized system
for embarking the captives as quickly as possible korea so we just played a slave deck being found in a vessel was no obvious sign of guilt so the typical system was that the lumber nicer to build that deck would be transported out under the guise of cargo was the vessel reach the west african coast then the slave deck would be constructive in the case of the water they had to rip out a tremendous amount of the sixth was a woodworking and joiner in order build that's lived it but that was done while the vessel was on the west african coast when
gonzales parts charleston she was still very much in the guise of very finely finished yacht they were confessing to go to visit africa on a cruise not on a trade mission when they're robin west african coast and they stripped out all the fine joinery and then after the the horrible ordeal of four hundred and eighty odd captives being loaded aboard the vessel by the time she returned to the nine states in november of my heating fifty eight it was there was quite a bit of change in the vessel's appearance she was bedraggled are that's really hard
conditions onboard very deep sea worn after the two months at sea and there was obviously some changes at all first mention the conditions onboard water must've been actually harder by the time she arrived off the west coast were no sanitary facilities on board there were over fourteen at individuals embarked about four hundred and ten of them survived to finally relented and the appearance of a vessel was completely different than what you sold out is a finely appointed yauch you see warm and just watch who are conditions on board and as usual
when water arrives on the west african coast she still very much in the guise of the elegant yacht crew are still decked out in yunnan a tire she and entertains the officers of a british blockading vessel the medusa and represent yourself still to be a first class yacht very soon thereafter of course that image as consumers should when she arrives in the west africa goes she's flying the flag of the new archive go very much maintaining that image and in terms of the house says the us should call the slippery slope late fifties it's estimated that as many as seventy us flagged vessels were engaged in the transatlantic slave trade and as many as ten to twelve being added
an annual basis mostly from the port of new york there's benefit in the late eighteenth fifties it's estimated that about seventy us flagged vessels mostly and out of the city of new york are still engaged actively in the transatlantic slave trade says a tremendous capital investment with the addition of approximately ten or twelve vessels on an annual basis issue yeah sort of stunning to think that as late as the late eighteen fifties there
were still so many american flagged vessels involved in the transatlantic slave trade and it's a real shame of light on the american merchant flea at the time to think that this was still the case equally so is the effective enforcement and regulation law enforcement of regulation either strengthen the stamina think that as late as the late eighteen fifties it was still so many american flagged vessels engaged in the transatlantic slave trade and some real shame and a blight on the american flag bridge and flee to think that this was the case equally so the ineffective nature of enforcing the regulations and the complicit in gutenberg sense of just hearing on the case rob this whole era when the international slave trade was by international
convention help the daily il has tremendous amount of conspiring among individuals of various nations in order to evade land to actually break these laws there were spanish portuguese and american interests all combined in order to manage the vessels and the trip one could not have existed without the other and it was a tremendous international trade in terms of a conspiracy there were government and give them an individual's employees involved we have our vessels sailing with dual national identities which is direct violation of international a vessel like terrible some american in a portuguese sort american in the spanish flag and you have been nationals as captains in name only the american citizen
with under the american flag in order to evade the british regulations and a spanish russell identification in order to enter and exit spanish people to the punchline so it's a safely without being an american work we're talking about through the whole era throw the whole area of the law violations it's been through the horror its board recognized that while many of these vessels were us fly they were a tremendous number of other nationalities of alden well it was literally an international conspiracy in order to successfully invade these laws vessels would often carry a dual identity as the flag of the united states in the flag of the portuguese with a spanish mission as well
despite the increasing size despite the increasing international regulation against the trans atlantic slave trade the demand for inexpensive labor fed by captive africans increase threaten the world the expansion not only throughout the west and the united states but brazil and other developing nations in the world created a constant demand which drove increasing profits for those willing to take the chance to run the blockades it's been poems essentially this is an international conspiracy of capital many the ships were us live or to many other nations involved as well each nation brought its own expertise to the train which is on the west coast
Africans in America
Episode Number
Judgment Day
Raw Footage
Interview with Quentin Snediker, Amistad project coordinator, Mystic Seaport Museum
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-j09w08xf3r).
Quentin Snediker is interviewed about the Amistad case of 1839, illegal slave trade in Cuba, Sengbe's revolt, Josiah Gibbs helping the Amistad captives, John Quincy Adams argument to free the captives and allow them to return to their homes. The slave trade in the 1850s, Captain William Corrie and The Wanderer.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Quentin Snediker, Amistad project coordinator, Mystic Seaport Museum ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Quentin Snediker, Amistad project coordinator, Mystic Seaport Museum .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Quentin Snediker, Amistad project coordinator, Mystic Seaport Museum . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from