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When a group of illegally enslaved Africans takes over their captors' ship, the Amistad, in 1839, they find themselves facing a judge, with not only their freedom at stake but also the issue of slavery as a whole on trial. Reprint.
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Grade 6-10AWith characteristic scholarship, clarity, insight, and compassion, Myers presents readers with the facts and the moral and historical significance of the Amistad episode. Archival photographs and artwork, newspaper accounts and correspondence, and interpretive text reveal the dramatic story of the captive Africans who mutinied against their slaver crew and accidentally landed in the United States instead of back in Africa. From their imprisonment in 1839, through two years of court battles ending up in the Supreme Court, this group of Africans, led by their striking spokesman, Sengbe (Cinque), aroused the moral conscience of America. The complicated issues involved are explained within the context of the times when tension in the United States between antislavery and slaveholding forces was escalating. The author tells the human story along with the legal story: the search for an interpreter to deliver Sengbe's testimony; the despair of the Africans who could not comprehend the reason for their imprisonment; the fascination of Americans with these proud, unyielding captives; and the dilemma of major historical personalities who dealt with this controversy. This story is not the movie screenplay. Although the topic is timely, Myers offers readers a well-researched, documented, nonfictionalized account of this far-reaching episode. Frequent black-and-white maps, drawings, and diagrams add to an understanding of this tragic event.AGerry Larson, Durham Magnet Center, Durham, NC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5^-9. Like Jurmain, Myers gives a dramatic factual account of the capture in West Africa, the hellish journey aboard the slave ship on the Middle Passage, the sale in Cuba, the mutiny led by Sengbe on the Amistad as it sailed from Cuba, the forced landing in Connecticut, the subsequent court trials in the U.S., and the final struggle to return home. The design is clear and readable, with spacious type, historic photographs and prints, a time line, a map showing the voyages of the captives, and a bibliography. Myers includes considerable detail drawn from primary reports but no source notes. The narrative is exciting, not only the account of the uprising but also the tension of the court arguments about whether the captives were property and what their rights were in a country that banned the slave trade but allowed slavery. Myers distinguishes among the various captives, quoting the children and the adults, as well as their great leader, Sengbe, who wanted to get home. Hazel Rochman
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