(NEW YORK) — A handwritten thank-you note written by freed slaves to former President John Quincy Adams has resurfaced ahead of the 175th anniversary of the Amistad Rebellion.
Adams had formally retired from public life in 1840 when he decided to take on a Supreme Court case in order to represent a group of 53 Africans who were bound to be sold into slavery.
“Dear friend I call you my Father because you set us free,” one of the men who was freed as a result of the ensuing Supreme Court case wrote in a letter to Adams that has been shared through the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University.
The letter, which included notes from four different men who were kidnapped by the slave traders, was released as part of the commemorations around the uprising, which took place on July 1, 1839.
The uprising and court case was later the subject of a 1997 Steven Spielberg hit starring Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and Matthew McConaughey.
The individuals from Sierra Leone were kidnapped and were headed to Spain, by way of Cuba, as part of the international slave trade.
After switching boats in Cuba, they fought back and killed a number of their captors on the schooner, La Amistad.
The boat crashed off the shore of Long Island in July 1839 and the kidnapped individuals were taken into custody. A well-publicized court case ensued, as Spain laid claim to the men but abolitionists were working to free them as wrongly-kidnapped citizens of Sierra Leone.
The letter has a number of religious references and notes that the package included a Bible that the men from the boat signed and sent to the former president-turned-public defender.
“We love you very much & we will pray for you when we rise up in the morning & when we lie down at night,” one wrote. “We hope the Lord will love you very much & take you up to heaven when you die. We pray for all the good people who make us free. Wicked people want to make us slaves but the great God who has made all things raise up friends for Mendi people he give us MR Adams that he may make me free.”
A replica of the ship itself has been turned into a monument to the uprising and the fight against slavery.
It is based in New Haven, Conn., but will sail to two other cities in the state as well as Boston and Manhattan throughout the month as part of its anniversary tour.
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