BLACK ODYSSEY: The Case of the Slave Ship Amistad by Mary Cable

BLACK ODYSSEY: The Case of the Slave Ship Amistad

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Mary Cable has pieced together the remarkable story of the Amistad, a slave ship hijacked by Africans who broke their chains and foundered ashore on the Connecticut coast in 1830, launching a sensational 19th-century court case and precipitating a diplomatic incident between Spain and America which reverberated for thirty years. New England abolitionists defended the blacks in the courts; Van Buren and the State Department wanted extradition to Cuba. John Quincy Adams, 80-year-old ex-president, delivered a 100,000 word address before the Supreme Court arguing ""the universal sense of the difference between merchandise and persons."" The Yale Divinity school sent tutors to instruct the savages in English and Christianity; the warden at the jail charged admission for a glimpse of the mutineers. At the Bowery Theater in New York, ten days after capture, 'a new nautical melodrama,' The Black Schooner, drew crowds. Portrait painters hawked likenesses of 'Cinque,' the Africans' leader; phrenologists admired the shape of his skull. The story is a taut drama which is also a significant if little known incident in black history. The author has a nice ear for social nuances in America in the 1840's, and deftly weaves her way through the legal and constitutional conundrums but she concentrates on the incongruous clash of personalities joined in battle for the souls and bodies of the blacks. This should interest historians both amateur and professional and many others since it's a helluva good yarn.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1971
Publisher: Viking