College Students Learn Firsthand About the Middle Passage

The Freedom Schooner Amistad, a replica of the nineteenth-century slave ship, is in the midst of a 16-month voyage from its home port in New Haven, Connecticut, to Sierre Leone in West Africa. More than 50 college students will participate in various legs of the trip to learn about the slave trade and educate others by posting Web blogs about their experiences.

The ship docked in Liverpool this past week to commemorate the opening of the International Slavery Museum. It also participated in ceremonies noting the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. The ship will proceed to Portugal and Africa before returning to the United States in 2008. The entire voyage will be the subject of a documentary film produced by John Amos, an actor who appeared in the epic television miniseries Roots.

The original Amistad was a slave ship that in 1839 was taken over by 50 slaves who were headed to a plantation in Cuba. The slaves planned to sail the ship back to Africa but it was seized by federal authorities off the coast of Long Island, New York. The slaves were imprisoned but eventually won their freedom from the U.S. Supreme Court and were repatriated to Africa.