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The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom Hardcover – November 8, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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

Review

“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (November 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025046
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the teaching of American history, given the constraints of what to focus upon during a school year, the events surrounding the episode of the Amistad, is often given short shift. For those interested in a more complete and detailed history, Marcus Rediker's Amistad Rebellion provides it. The author takes the reader from the "Origins of the Amistad Africans" to their successful "Homecoming" back to Sierra Leone. The history of the rebellion and the defense of the rebellious slaves on board of the Amistad has been richly researched by Rediker. The final understanding that the author imparts in the last chapter is very important in ones understanding of the totality of the movement to end American slavery. "The Amistad rebels contributed to a shift in the thinking about what might be possible in the war against slavery."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the acknowledgements of The Amistad Rebellion Rediker says that he wrote the book as a companion to his earlier book The Slave Ship. He says that after writing about the failed struggles of those enslaved and tortured within the machinery of Atlantic World commerce he wanted to write a story about successful rebellion. And this is what he has done excellently in this book. Just as in The Slave Ship, Rediker tells the story from the perspective of those on the bottom. This is especially challenging as most of the historical sources are written and created by those in more privileged positions. Indeed even when being told from the perspective of the abolitionists who are supporting the Amistad the author is careful to point out that their motives for helping them did not line up perfectly with the rebels themselves and that both used the other to get what they wanted. The reader get the impression that from the moment they broke their chains on board the ship the rebels played an active hand in their destiny overcoming a language barrier and the many racist assumptions about them. Rediker does and excellent job of describing how the rebels fashioned a new African identify in the new world that served their cause of getting back home. He also puts many of the actions and words of the rebels in the appropriate cultural lens so that they do not just come off as quaint tribal customs.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book delves into many facets of the event (and those leading up to it) as well as the time the "AFRICANS" spent in jail. The interplay of politics reminds all of us that the present stupidity in Washington is not a new state of affairs. The, like now, it was about what will win my next election.

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
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Format: Hardcover
I remember when Steven Spielberg's movie "Amistad" 1st came out in 1998. While I'd yet to see the whole feature, I've seen parts of it, enough to see that it's an interesting movie.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The slave trade of many millions of Africans during more than 400 years, starting in the fifteenth century onwards, has been perhaps the biggest crime ever perpetrated in modern history. True, there were many more horrendous crimes, including the horrible Shoah against 6 millions Jews, however the proportions and magnitude of the slave trade are unique in themselves. One can easily say that tens of millions were murdered after being fully exploited in the name of Mammon.
In his new book, Professor Rediker tells the tragic story and history of the Amistad from another perspective, namely that of those rebels who fought for for their freedom. Ironically, the name "Amistad" means "friendship" in Spanish. But the Spanish who enslaved the tens of slaves on the ship were hardly the friends of those wretched souls who eventually rebelled against the ship's captain and the rest of the story need not be repeated here.
However, the second part of this fascinating book is more significant and thus more interesting, since it describes in great detail how the rebels adapted to the new life in New Haven, with the strong help offered by their abolitionist supporters and friends.
The anti-slavery movement, which started to be active to a greater degree during the 30s and 40s of the nineteenth century, decided on a mass propaganda campaign in order to free the slaves who were originally intended to be dropped as human cargo in Cuba, courtesy of the Spanish government. Sugar was the name of the game and Cuba hoped to become the main trading center of it. The island belonged to Spain and slave ships wre landing around 10000 Africans in Cuba every year.
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