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trumpeted the March 13,1841, headline of The Colored American,one of the first U.S. newspapers published and edited by African Americans. The cause for this jubilation was an unprecedented event. At a time when most black Americans had no legal rights, a group of captive Africans had challenged the U.S. government before the Supreme...
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trumpeted the March 13,1841, headline of The Colored American,one of the first U.S. newspapers published and edited by African Americans. The cause for this jubilation was an unprecedented event. At a time when most black Americans had no legal rights, a group of captive Africans had challenged the U.S. government before the Supreme Court — and won!
Freedom's Sons is a tale of unbending courage and moral integrity in the face of incredible odds. It is the extraordinary true story of the only successful slave revolt in American history. In 1839, fifty-three Africans aboard the Cuban slave ship Amistad broke out of their chains and took over the ship. Attempting to return to Sierra Leone, they landed instead on the northeast coast of the United States, where they were captured and put on trial. A year and a half later, former president John Quincy Adams argued the Supreme Court case that ultimately set them free.
Burna and several of the others were caught trying to steal a few extra sips from the ship's cask. Ruiz had them flogged, and the sailors rubbed a mixture of salt, rum, and gunpowder into their bleeding wounds to intensify the pain.
With gestures, Cinque asked the mulatto cook what would happen when the Amistad reached land.
The cook pointed to a barrel filled with beef. Using pantomime, he explained that when the ship docked, the slaves "would have their throats cut, be chopped into pieces, and salted down" to make meat for the Spaniards. It was a lie, but Cinque believed it and decided to act.
That afternoon he found a nail and hid it care fully under his arm.
In the evening, the Africans held a council to discuss the situation. "If we do nothing," Cinque said, we [will] be killed. We may as well die in trying to be free...."
The others agreed, and Cinque outlined a plan.
On the night of July 1, a storm broke, and gusts of rain and windbattered the Amistad. While the crew fought to steady the ship, Cinque and Grabeau used the nail to detach the chain that connected the men's iron collars from its fitting in the wall. Once free, they began to search for weapons. One man found a case of sugarcane knives hidden among the boxes and barrels in the hold. The slaves armed themselves with the sharptwo-foot-long machetes and sat down to wait.
As the evening wore on, the wind died down and the rain slowed to a drizzle. Ruiz and Montes went to sleep in their quarters. The captain and crew dozed on the deck. The ship was quiet.
About four A.M., the freed slaves crept cautiously out of the hold. No one was standing guard. In the dim light, they could see the cook lying fast asleep in a rowboat. Cinque killed the man before he could raise the alarm and swiftly led his troops along the deck.
Minutes later, Captain Ferrer woke to find himself surrounded by slaves. Pulling his dagger, he charged the Africans, thrusting furiously. Ferrer killed one slave and wounded two others before he was cut down by a volley of blows. Noise wakened the slave owners, and both Spaniards rushed on deck. Ruiz grabbed an oar and attacked the rebels. Montes lashed out with a knife and stick. "Kill them all," yelled one of the sailors, and the fight raged.
By dawn it was over. Cinque was in command of the ship.Freedom's Sons. Copyright © by Suzanne Jurmain. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.