NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – September is the start of Freedom Trail Month, but some of the events are actually taking place at the end of August.
The Freedom Trail was established in 1995 by the general assembly to establish a freedom trail for Connecticut which memorializes the fight of African decedents and fair minded freedom loving residents of Connecticut for emancipation of slavery.
The Connecticut Freedom Trail documents and designates sites that embody the struggle toward freedom and human dignity, celebrate the accomplishments of the state’s African American community and promote heritage tourism. The Trail officially opened in September 1996, and now there are more than 130 sites in more than 50 towns, and the Trail continues to grow. The Connecticut Freedom Trail includes locations reported to have served as Underground Railroad safe houses, sites associated with the Amistad case of 1839, grave-sites, monuments, homes and other structures that were affiliated with the journey to freedom.
On Monday, August 25th at 6pm the New London Maritime Society and Amistad America will commemorate the 175th anniversary of La Amistad. One hundred and seventy-five years ago, on August 25, 1839, La Amistad sat in New London Harbor. Nearby the US revenue cutter Washington, which had just intercepted La Amistad off Montauk, New York, held the Amistad captives under US custody. On that day, New London grocer Dwight Plimpton Janes managed to get aboard the cutter for the initial legal hearing, and noticed that the captives were speaking in their native language. In fact, the Spaniard Jose Ruiz, one of the Amistad’s owners, mentioned to Janes that none of them spoke Spanish or English because they were ‘just from Africa.’ This comment was enough to convince Mr. Janes, an ardent abolitionist, that the captives were freeborn Africans, not Cuban slaves as the Spaniards claimed, and that the owners were breaking international law. Back onshore, Dwight Janes wrote to several prominent abolitionists: Roger S. Baldwin, a New Haven lawyer; Joshua Leavitt, editor of The Emancipator; and Lewis Tappan, a silk merchant. This action set into motion the sequence of events resulting in the first US Supreme Court cast to set enslaved people free.
Approximately one in 10 ships taking part in the slave trade experienced a revolt. La Amistad may have joined the ranks of these lesser-known incidents were it not for the advocacy efforts of one New London resident who stood up for the cause of freedom
Check out ctfreedomtrail.org for more information.