CCW and The Freedom Schooner Amistad

In 1839 fifty-three Africans from the area now known as Sierra Leone were captured into the North American slave trade and forced onto a Spanish vessel called La Amistad. One of them, a man named Singbe Pieh, escaped from his chains and led a shipboard revolt.  The victorious Africans ordered the two surviving crew members to sail them toward the rising sun, back to Africa. Instead, they were tricked as the ship was turned back toward the coast at night. The Amistad zigzagged up the eastern U.S. coast and ended up in the harbor at New London, Connecticut. When Spain demanded the return of "Spanish property", there ensued one of the most important civil rights cases in U.S.  Supreme Court history. Ultimately, under a legal defense headed by the former president John Quincy Adams, the Court upheld the freedom the Africans and, more importantly, their right to self-determination. The decision and its surrounding publicity fueled the growing abolitionist movement in this country. In January of 1842 the thirty-five Amistad Africans who had survived the ordeal were returned to their homelands. 

In 1999 Mystic Seaport's shipyard staff began construction on a working replica of the sailing vessel, Amistad, as a permanent symbol of the struggle for equality and human rights. The ship is a floating educational resource to ensure this very important part of American history is never lost.

During the construction, Mystic Seaport staff asked CCW to turn the belaying pins, parrel beads and damage control plugs for the reconstruction. Since the launch in 2000, our members have created hundreds of turned items from the cut-offs and scraps left over from the construction of the vessel. Funds raised from the sale of these items are used to develop shipboard educational curricula and to promote the mission of the Amistad. There is always something to do on a wooden sailing vessel.

In the spring of the past two years CCW volunteers have performed much needed vessel maintenance. We sand and varnish the natural wood surfaces, renew paint and perform minor repairs. This spring 30 CCW members and their guests sailed out of New London, CT aboard the Amistad as a gesture of thanks for our work and contributions. Once deployed, we helped with the rigging to raise the sails and some even took the opportunity to steer the vessel.  We were served a delicious lunch by Dani, the ship’s cook, heard a lecture on the history of the Amistad and enjoyed a beautiful day of sailing.  Each year CCW members who make donations or volunteer to work have been afforded the opportunity to sail aboard this beautiful icon of history. More importantly, we gain the tremendous sense of satisfaction of contributing to the mission of the Amistad spreading the message of justice and equality in every port she visits. 

If you would like to participate please contact John Lorch.

- John Lorch


The February meeting Tuesday 27th at 6:30pm

Kip Lockhart will be showing the ins & outs of vacuum chucking
William J. Pitkin Community Center
30 Greenfield Street
Room S1