David Drayton, retired principal of Howard High School, and
Georgetown attorney George Geer will head the steering committee
organizing the upcoming visit of the Freedom Schooner Amistad to
Georgetown. The Amistad will be docked at Land's End Marina from Nov. 4
The ship, a replica of the schooner which was the scene of a
historic revolt in 1839 by a group of captured Africans, will be the
focus of special educational forums, discussions and other events
relating to the history of the Amistad incident. In addition to the
steering committee, eight other committees are being formed to ensure
that the ship is fully utilized for the enlightenment and education of
the local public, particularly students.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for Georgetown and for the
children from throughout this region," said Drayton. "The Amistad is a
symbol of freedom and it represents an important episode in American
history." Drayton is chairman of Georgetown's Committee for African
American Historical Observances. He is also chairman of the Board of
Commissioners of the Georgetown City Housing Authority and a member of
the Georgetown County AIDS Task Force. He was principal of Howard High
School in Georgetown for 21 years.
In 1839, 53 men, women and children who had been captured in
Africa and illegally enslaved in Cuba led a shipboard rebellion aboard
the schooner Amistad (the Spanish word for "friendship"). Sixty days
after the mutiny they were captured and held in Connecticut. After
three court appearances culminating in the famous Supreme Court case
led by John Quincy Adams in 1841, the Africans were found to be free
men and women, illegally taken from Africa.
"The Amistad incident is a landmark case in the history of civil
rights in America," said Geer, a partner of the Georgetown law firm
Hinds, Cowan, Strange and Geer. "Our courts in 1841 recognized the
rights of the captured Africans as human beings who were simply trying
to regain the freedom which had been stolen from them, which was an
important precedent. The visit of the Amistad is also particularly
meaningful to Georgetown because so many African-Americans here trace
their heritage to Sierra Leone, the region of Africa where the Amistad
captives were from."
Geer is active in civic affairs in the Georgetown area and is a
past chairman of the Georgetown County Board of Education.
The Amistad replica is the creation of a Connecticut-based
nonprofit education foundation called Amistad America, Inc., whose
purpose is to advance the lessons of perseverance, cooperation, justice
and freedom inherent in the momentous historic incident. Constructed at
Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, the 77-foot replica was launched in the
summer of 2000.
The other Amistad committees include Public Relations/Marketing,
Fundraising, Hospitality/Entertainment, In-School Education, Volunteer
Coordination, Community-Visitor Education/Exhibits, Harbor Logistics
and Transportation/Security. Meetings are open to the public and anyone
interested in serving on a committee may join.
For more information about committee meetings and other
opportunities, contact Diane Gunnin, director of Cultural Promotions at
Coastal Carolina University, at 349-2811.