(July 2, 1839) Slave rebellion aboard the schooner Amistad. The revolt took place off the coast of Cuba when 53 Africans who had been abducted from Sierra Leone for the slave trade, seized control of the ship, killed the captain and cook, and ordered the navigator to sail for Africa. Pretending to do so, he sailed generally northward instead, and the ship was intercepted two months later off New York. Despite attempts by Pres. Martin Van Buren to send the Africans to Cuba, abolitionists demanded a trial, contending the men were free under international law. A federal judge agreed, and the government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 1841 defending counsel John Quincy Adams successfully argued that the men should be freed. Donations helped the 35 survivors to return to Sierra Leone in 1842.
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