The United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone, June Carter Perry has awarded Sam S. Sesay, a pupil of the Government Model Senior Secondary School, the first place in the Amistad esay competition sponsored by the embassy.
The Award was presented at the U.S. Embassy before an audience that included the Deputy Minister of Culture, the crew of the Amistad, a delegation from the United States, and local cultural personalities.
Over 20 schools in Freetown and Bo were invited to participate in the essay contest, which asked students to write two-page essays on the topic “Why I admire those who revolted on the Amistad.” The submissions were evaluated by a panel of local cultural experts and by the U.S. Ambassador. The second place winner was Aminata Palmer of Apex International School, and third place went to Cedric William Leigh of Prince of Wales School.
The Amistad Freedom Schooner was docked at the Freetown Government Wharf from December 9 – 18 and gave tours to an estimated 3,000 people per day. The Amistad’s transatlantic voyage to Freetown commemorates and honors the bicentennial of the end of the slave trade and focuses on educating people about the Amistad incident. The Amistad set sail from its home port, New Haven, Connecticut, in the United States in July of this year. The ship has made several stops along the route that many slave ships sailed, culminating with its visit to Freetown.
The text of the winning essay, by Sam S. S. S. Sesay, follows:
The Amistad revolt was as a result of a rebellion stage by slaves, mostly from Sierra Leone, on board a ship known as Amistad bound for the Caribbean Island. Despite the fact that some European nations had abolished slave trade in the Early 19th century, yet some American states were still indulged in the act.
Therefore among the capture slaves on board the Amistad were people from the Mende, Temne, and Kissi ethnic tribes of Sierra Leone. Amongst them were people like Sengbe Pieh (Joseph Cinque) and Kali. While the ship was on voyage from Cuba to Brazil, Sengbe Pieh and some of his cohorts broke loose their shackles and climbed on deck the ship and rebelled against their captors. During that rebellion, they killed their master and, under duress, ordered the ship captain to take them back home – Africa.
But due to their lack of sea voyage, the captain steered the ship to the West Coast of the United States of America, where the rebels were charged for murder and hence put under custody. At this juncture, some anti-slave activist took up the case of the rebels and fought for legal counsel for them.
I personally admire the people (slaves) on board the Amistad for revolting against their captors for the following reasons: Firstly, Sengbe Pieh and his cohorts fought for their right of self freedom. This clearly shows that no man should be in bondage for another man. Also, for the simple fact that these Africans were stock illiterate, they however defended themselves in the white man Court of Law. Furthermore, I admire Sengbe Pieh and his colleagues for the courage and bravery they displayed to even free themselves from bondage and also this display put out by them in the court of law in a foreign land amongst strangers. I also admire the rebels for their aptitude in learning a foreign language – both spoken and written English – in so short a period whilst in detention in the United States. All the above points will clearly justify ones admiration for the revolt on the Amistad.