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Amistad trip to Georgetown is ship's first South Carolina visit

In 2001, President Ingle initiated the plan to bring an Amistad replica to Georgetown.

ABOVE: The way the story appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of Coastal Magazine

Amistad trip to Georgetown is ship's first South Carolina visit

The Freedom Schooner Amistad, a replica of the ship which was the scene of a historic revolt in 1839 by a group of captured Africans, visited Georgetown in early November. Coastal President Ronald R. Ingle initiated the plan to invite the Amistad to the Grand Strand after watching a feature story about the vessel on CBS News Sunday Morning. “I felt it could be a very inspirational and educational event for our entire area – and a natural fit for Georgetown, where so many people can trace their roots to Sierra Leone, the region of Africa where the Amistad captives were from.”

The Amistad replica is the creation of a Connecticut-based nonprofit educational foundation called AMISTAD America, Inc., whose purpose is to advance the lessons of perseverance, cooperation, justice and freedom inherent in the momentous historic incident. The ship’s two-week visit in Georgetown provided opportunities for special educational forums, discussions and other events relating to the mission of AMISTAD America.

David Drayton, retired principal of Howard High School, and Georgetown attorney George Geer headed the steering committee organizing the visit. Local volunteer committees organized events designed to give area students and residents opportunities to experience the ship.

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,” says 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.”

Constructed at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, the 77-foot replica was launched in the summer of 2000. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, about the historical incident, was released in 1998.