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Slavery

Knowledge of the American Slave Trade

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SENGBE PIEH; HERO OF THE AMISTAD REVOLT

Sengbe Pieh was a Mende farmer whose extraordinary courage in resisting slavery earned him a lasting place in the histories of Sierra Leone and the United States. Sengbe was captured in his rice farm in January, 1839 and ultimately sold to a Spanish slave trader near modern Sulima. He was then transported across the Atlantic to Havana, Cuba and sold at an auction, along with forty-eight other Sierra Leoneans, to a Spanish sugar planter named Jose Ruiz. The Spaniard placed his slaves aboard a ship called the Amistad for a short trip to his plantation, but on the third day at sea, Sengbe pulled a loose spike from the deck and broke his chains and those of his fellow slaves. He discovered cane knives in the cargo hold, armed his men, mostly Mende, and led them onto the deck.

They killed the captain and drove the crew overboard and then Sengbe ordered their would-be master to sail the Amistad back to Sierra Leone. The Spaniard tried to trick the Africans by turning the ship toward Cuba at night, but a storm drove the Amistad northeast along the coast of the United States. Sengbe and his men were captured by the United States Navy off Long island, New York. And charged with murder and piracy, but a dedicated group of American abolitionists came immediately to their defense.

The Americans formed the" Amistad Committee" which recruited prominent lawyers to argue for the captured Mendes who were finally freed when former President John Quincy Adams argued their case before the United States Supreme Court. Sengbe Pieh , also known as James Cinque in the United States became a celebrity in the free Northern States, and thousands of people bought his portrait and paid to see him speak on the evils of slavery. Sengbe returned with his men to Sierra Leone in January, 1842 together with the first of many American missionaries to come to these shores. In the United States the Amistad Committee, originally set up for the defense of Sengbe and his fellow Mendes, continued to fight for an end to slavery and, after emancipation, set up hundreds of schools and colleges for the newly freed slaves. Today, Sengbe’s picture hangs in some public buildings and black colleges in the United States, and no history book on the American slavery era is complete without an account of his courageous deeds. Although still largely unknown in his own country, Sengbe Pieh deserves to be recognized as one of the most famous and influential Sierra Leoneans who ever lived.

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Discussion Forum

African Slavery Fact Sheet...NO SUGAR!

Started by Mark Wells Sep 8, 2013. 0 Replies

Geography1. Enslaved Africans…Continue

Tags: slavery, African

The Civil War, Hilton Head and the Evolution of Mitchelville, S.C.

Started by Mark Wells Oct 21, 2012. 0 Replies

The choice having been made to attack…Continue

Tags: Gullah, Mitchelville

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Started by Mark Wells May 22, 2011. 0 Replies

Primary Documents:To regulate relations between slaves and colonists, the Louisiana…Continue

« Return to African-American Resources American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline

Started by Mark Wells Apr 24, 2011. 0 Replies

1472* Portuguese negotiate the first slave trade agreement that also…Continue

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