The schooner Amistad, the official flagship of the State of Connecticut, has seen difficult times in recent years. Built fifteen years ago at Mystic Seaport, until recently, the ship had been in receivership since 2014, after Amistad America, the non-profit which ran the ship, defaulted on debts and failed to file tax returns. Now, with considerable assistance from the state, a new non-profit, Discovering Amistad, hopes to return the schooner to operation, following necessary repairs being completed at Mystic.
As reported by The Day: Unlike Amistad America, the financially troubled organization that lost the ship through receivership after sailing it to far-flung ports in Africa, the Caribbean, and Bermuda, Discovering Amistad plans to sail almost exclusively along the Connecticut coastline while expanding on its historic story into timely subjects such as social justice and race relations.
“We want to get it into as many areas of the state as possible because we have to let people know the ship is back,” said chairman Len Miller of Essex, a retired CPA who founded the 25-year-old SoundWaters marine education program in Stamford. “We have to build up the credibility of this ship that unfortunately was lost.”
Plenty of ill will surrounds the ship as the state continued to fund Amistad America even after it fell deeper and deeper into debt while providing little documentation about how it was spending state funding.
The 129-foot Baltimore clipper is a replica of a 19th-century slave ship seized by African captives. The schooner sailed to Long Island and the Africans were jailed in New Haven, CT. A series of court cases over whether the Africans should be freed or sent back to Cuban slaveholders ended in a Supreme Court case in 1841 in which they were ultimately freed.