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In January 1839 fifty-three African natives were kidnapped from eastern Africa and sold into the Spanish slave trade They were then placed aboard a Spanish slave ship bound for Havana Cuba Once in Havana the Africans were classified as native Cuban slaves and purchased at auction by two Spaniards Don Jose Ruiz and Don Pedro Montez The two planned to move the slaves to another part of Cuba The slaves were shackled and loaded aboard the cargo ship Amistad Spanish for friendship for the brief coastal voyage However three days into the journey a 25-year-old slave named Sengbe Pieh or Cinque to his Spanish captors broke out of his shackles and released the other Africans The slaves then revolted killing most of the crew of the Amistad including the cook and captain The Africans then forced Montez and Ruiz to return the ship to Africa During the day the ship sailed due east using the sun to navigate However at night Montez and Ruiz would change course attempting to return to Cuba The zigzag journey continued for 63 days The ship finally grounded near Montauk Point Long Island in New York State The United States federal government seized the ship and its African occupants -- who under US law were property and therefore cargo of the ship On August 29 1839 the Amistad was towed into New London Connecticut The government charged the slaves with piracy and murder and classified them as salvage property The fifty-three Africans were sent to prison pending hearing of their case before the US Circuit Court in Hartford Connecticut The stage was set for an important controversial and highly politicized case Local abolitionist groups rallied around the Africans cause organizing a legal defense hiring a translator for the Africans and providing material support Meanwhile the Spanish government pressured the US President Martin Van Buren to return the slaves to Spain without trial httpamistadmysticseaportorglibrarymiscbarber1840amiscapthtmlinitialinvestigation1 The trials and arguments revealed much about
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