The United States (US) schooner Amistad will sail into the harbour of Freetown, recognizing a dream to bring this historic US icon of freedom to the country of the original La Amistad captives.
The arrival in Freetown marks the midpoint in a 14 month commemorative voyage of the Amistad that has been formally recognized by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice as the official US representative for the year commemorating the 200th anniversary of the British abolition of the transatlantic salve trade in 1807.
The voyage, which is being called the Atlantic Freedom Tour, has also garnered the endorsement of the UNESCO’s Slave Trade Route Project, the Schomberg centre for research in black culture in New York City, the museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, the black loyalist society of Nova Scotia and numerous other public historians and scholars currently focused on the history of the transatlantic slave trade.
The arrival of Amistad in Freetown is an important moment in the history of Sierra Leone.
This West African country – the second poorest country in the world- is most often characterized by stories of blood diamonds and the brutal civil war of the 1990s.
But today there is another story: Sierra Leone has just held free and fair elections and has completed a peaceful transition of power –another important milestone for post –colonial Africa.
That accomplishment-especially in this year of commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade-cries out for international recognition.
More than 160 years ago, the landing of the original La Amistad in New London, Connecticut, began a worldwide affair that awoke and galvanized the American abolition movement and , ultimately, led to an extraordinary victory before a hostile US Supreme court.
Today, through the Atlantic Freedom Tour, the Amistad is poised again to raise the conscience of the world.
At a time when the vestiges of racial hatred are again capturing headlines, the Amistad‘s message of freedom and cooperation among all peoples is more important than ever.
The voyage has been planned since the 139-foot replica schooner was built by Mystic Museum Seaport Museum in 2000.
The crew and college students traveling aboard will be welcomed by the Sierra Leone’s new president, his cabinet and the US and British ambassadors.