They were kidnapped and stuffed into the cramped hold of a leaky wooden schooner-class sailing ship. Chained to each other and to iron rings set in the floor, the Africans endured unsanitary conditions, little food and water, and uncertainty until they were finally able to orchestrate a mutiny off the coast of Cuba.

After killing the ship’s captain, the wayward Africans tried to return home, only to be captured by a US warship near Long Island (some people just refuse to ask for directions) and eventually cleared of murder charges by the US Supreme court.

Even though it sounds like a star-studded Hollywood summer blockbuster, the events you just read about actually happened. Steven Speilberg made a sleepy movie about the Amistad back in the 1990s.

Commemorating the Africans’ harrowing escape and the 200 year anniversary of Britain’s abolition of slavery, a replica of the slaver ship hoisted anchor and set sail last night in New Haven, Connecticut, beginning its year and a half journey.

Aside from its crew, a dozen or so students will visit ports-of-call including London, Lisbon, Maderia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and finally a return to the US through the Caribbean. The students will be web-casting their impressions of the voyage to various schools and museums.

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