The African Origins of the Amistad Rebellion, 1839

TitleThe African Origins of the Amistad Rebellion, 1839
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRediker, Marcus
JournalInternational Review of Social History
IssueSupplement S21
Pagination15 - 34

This essay explores the Amistad rebellion of 1839, in which fifty-three Africans seized a slave schooner, sailed it to Long Island, New York, made an alliance with American abolitionists, and won their freedom in a protracted legal battle. Asking how and why the rebels succeeded, it emphasizes the African background and experience, as well as the “fictive kinship” that grew out of many incarcerations, as sources of solidarity that made the uprising possible. The essay concludes by discussing the process of mutiny, suggesting a six-phase model for understanding the dynamics of shipboard revolt, and showing how such events can have powerful historical consequences.

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