In 1839, in waters off the coast of Cuba, a group of forty-nine Africans ensnared in the Atlantic slave trade struck out for freedom. They had been captured, sold into slavery, carried across the ocean, sold again, and they were being transported on the ship Amistad. One of them, a man the world would come to know as "Cinque," worked free of his chains and led a shipboard revolt. Africans tried to force two Cuban survivors to sail them back to Africa, but the Amistad wound up instead in U.S. waters, just past Long Island Sound, where the Africans were again taken into custody. Spain promptly demanded their extradition to face trial in Cuba for piracy and murder, but their plight caught the attention of American abolitionists, who mounted a legal defense on the Africans' behalf. The case went through the American judicial system all the way up to the Supreme Court, where former president John Quincy Adams joined the abolitionists' legal team. Finally, in March 1841, the Supreme Court upheld the freedom the Africans had claimed for themselves. Ten months later, in January 1842, the thirty-five Amistad Africans who had survived the ordeal returned to their homelands.
1837 - 1839: 25,000 Africans brought to Cuba as slaves.
April 1839: Cinque captured by other Africans, taken to the slave factory in Lomboko and sold to a Portuguese slave trader.
April - June 1839: Cinque and others resold to another slave trader and put aboard the Tecora which sailed to Cuba.
June 1839: Cinque and others sold to Ruiz and Montes in Havana, Cuba. Amistad leaves Havana for Guanaja with slaves and owners.
July 1839: Mutiny led by Cinque; Amistad's captain and cook killed while two crewmen escape; Africans control Amistad.
July - August 1839: Amistad steered by Montes east by day and northwest by night, toward United States.
August 1839: Amistad captured by crew of U.S.S. Washington off of Long Island, New York; Africans held and taken with Amistad to New London, Connecticut; Judicial hearing, presided over by Judge Judson, on the U.S. S. Washington; Africans await trial in a New Haven, Connecticut jail.
September 1839: Lewis Tappan forms Friend of Amistad Africans Committee; Judge Thompson presides in Circuit Court hearing on Amistad criminal case; case dismissed by Judge Thompson for jurisdictional reasons; civil case left for District Court resolution.
October 1839: Professor Josiah Gibbs locates interperter, James Covey, and the Africans are able to tell their story; teaching Africans the English language and Christianity began; Cinque and others file charges of assualt and false imprisonment against Ruiz and Montes.
November 1839: District Court meets and postpones case.
December 1839: Slave factory at Lomboko, Sierra Leone raided by British and all slaves there liberated.
January 8, 1840: The Amistad civil trial begins in New Haven.
January 15, 1840: Judge Hudson presiding in District Court rules the Africans are to be turned over to the President for return to Africa.
August 1840: Africans taken to Westville.
September 1840: Judge Thompson of the Circuit Court upholds District Court decision; government appeals to U.S. Supreme Court.
October 1840: John Quincy Adams convinces to join Roger Baldwin in arguing the case for the Africans before the Supreme Court.
Feb. - March 1841: Baldwin and Adams argue case before Supreme Court; Court orders Africans to be freed immediately.
Mar. - Nov. 1841: Freed Africans go to Farmington for further English and religious education; local committee plans mission establishment in Africa.
November 1841: African survivors leave with missionaries for Africa aboard Gentleman.
January 1842: Arrive in Sierra Leone; mission experiences problems; many of the Africans abandon missionaries.
1846: Brother Raymond, founder of the mission in Sierra Leone dies of yellow fever and is replaced by George Thomas; 68 students attend the mission; efforts to compensate Spain for the Amistad are opposed in the House by John Quincy Adams.
1860: With the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, efforts to compensate Spain for the Amistad incident come to an end.
1879: Cinque, old and emaciated, comes to the mission to die and is buried among the graves of American missionaries.