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30 June

'On board the brig we also saw Joseph Cinqué, the master spirit and hero of this bloody tragedy, in irons ... He is said to be a match for any two men on board the schooner. His countenance, for a native African, is unusually intelligent, evincing uncommon decision and coolness, with a composure characteristic of true courage, and nothing to mark him as a malicious man.'

June 30, 2009
1 min read

‘He is said, however, to have killed the captain and crew with his own hand, by cutting their throats … He expects to be executed, but nevertheless manifests a sang froid worthy of a Stoic under similar circumstances.’

New York Journal of Commerce (30 August, 1839)

Sengbe Pieh, also known as Joseph Cinqué, working a nail loose from the ship’s deck, unlocked his chains and went on to set free 52 fellow African slaves, upon the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad, today in 1839.

Sparing the lives of three sailors, Pieh ordered them to sail in the direction of the rising of the sun, or eastward towards Africa. But the Spanish sailors navigated westward, drifting off course and eventually reaching the US coastline where the ship was retaken.

The Africans, who were charged with murder, were defended by ex-President John Quincy Adams. He contended that they should be granted their freedom because they had only exercised their natural rights to escape illegal enslavement. In 1841, the Supreme Court freed them and they returned to Africa.


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