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The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom Hardcover – November 8, 2012
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*Starred Review* Rediker (The Slave Ship, 2007) goes against the grain of most accounts of the Amistad rebellion, which feature heroic abolitionists and an American system that ultimately stood up for the freedom of the Africans who mutinied against their slave-catchers. In this impressive account, Rediker stays firmly focused on the African rebels themselves. In 1839, nearly three months into the journey to Cuba, the 53 captives took control of the ship and, with the help of a hostage navigator, attempted to sail it back to Africa. Recaptured off the shores of America, the rebels were jailed and caught up in a legal challenge to slavery that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Originally from various inland African nations, the men developed a kinship that sustained them through captivity, rebellion, incarceration, and the three-year campaign that eventually freed them. Led by Cinque, the Africans asserted their agency, learning English, drawing parallels between the American justice system and their own tribal councils, and working with abolitionists to plan their defense. Rediker details the dynamics of the relationships between the Amistad Africans, the abolitionists, and their slave-trading opposition, offering a totally enthralling account of the Amistad rebellion and its place in the broader American story of revolt against a great threat to liberty. --Vanessa Bush
“Gripping...Superb...As Marcus Rediker’s new book reminds us, the place of the [Amistad] rebellion in popular memory hasn’t always been secure.”--The Nation
“The great strength of this work—aside from rediker’s vivd style as a writer and meticulous research—is that he brings the Amistad Africans back to center stage where they have often been pushed to the side.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Vividly drawn…this stunning book honors the achievement of the captive Africans who fought for—and won—their freedom.”—The Philadelphia Tribune
“Spectacularly researched and fluidly composed, this latest study offers some much needed perspective on a critical yet often overlooked event in America’s history.”--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A totally enthralling account of the Amistad rebellion and its place in the broader American story of revolt against a great threat to liberty."--Booklist (starred review)
"A first-rate example of history told from the bottom up."--Kirkus (starred review)
"Rediker takes a fresh approach to the Amistad rebellion by focusing on the Africans who revolted rather than on the American political and judicial response, which takes the central place in most previous works."--Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
Despite his own self criticism, I felt that Rediker demonstrated that even in the most desperate and cruel conditions, enslaved Africans managed to show some agency in their passive and futile resistance to the slave trade. In Amistad he shows just how far this resistance could go. Despite the fact that most of the main characters of the story were African and did not even speak English ( at least in the beginning) their struggle for freedom is a very American one.
We also learned more about the principals and the slavers (many of whom were the "folks back home" who reaped large profits in the trade of humans. All in all, a fine book that puts a hard time in our history in context. I'd recommend this book highly, and in fact - already have
That movie was also the 1st time I heard of the Amistad Rebellion, which was an uprising on the slaver of the same name. This resulted in the death of the captain & the captives taking over the ship, only to end up in a Connecticut jail with their case eventually going all the way to the US Supreme Court (with former President John Quincy Adams arguing in their favor). In the end the captives won their freedom & returned to Africa.
This book, written by the author of the award winning "The Slave Ship: A Human History" offers a new look at this incident. Using recently discovered info, he gives us a fresh new look on the captives who took over the Amistad. He also explores the African origins of those on board, how they got caught up in the trans-Atlantic trade, what led to the rebellion & the reactions in the US esp. from pro & anti-slave forces. Reading this, one can understand the feelings of the captives who just wanted to go back to Africa & who was scared of going back to Cuba (which was a certain death sentence for all involved in the rebellion) & who was up against the Spanish government (who wanted them back in Cuba, then a Spanish colony) & the US government (who also wanted to ship them back to Cuba) who eventually appealed the lower court decision to free the captives to the Supreme Court. In retrospect it was amazing that despite the odds against them, they were able to win their freedom & go back home though what became of many of the captives once they returned to Africa is lost to history.
Overall, I found this be a great read. There's also some great illustrations (some of which were done by artists would come see the captives in jail) throughout the book & in the middle-section as well. This is one to look for, esp. if you to know more about the Amistad Rebellion than just watching a Hollywood movie.