Thirty-four years old John Kamara, dressed in a bandana of Sierra Leone’s flag, was the only Sierra Leonean who was on board the replica ship which arrived Sunday in Freetown.
Kamara heard the story of the Amistad from his grandmother as a small boy. He said he was so proud and that this journey meant a lot to him and his people.
A replica of a 19th century slave ship, which became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement after kidnapped Africans rose up on board against their captors, arrived on Sunday in Sierra Leone.
“Our people were torn from their culture to become slaves.
It’s the first time a schooner has come in instead of going out,” said Mohamed Bangura a British based Sierra Leonean.
Cheering Sierra Leoneans lined the docks to see the 129-foot (39-metre) schooner, topped with three billowing sails and the Sierra Leonean, U.S. and Canadian flags, make its first stop in Africa since it set sail in June from New Haven, Connecticut.
The Amistad’s voyage commemorates Britain’s abolition of the transatlantic slave trade 200 years ago this year.
The ship has already stopped in Britain and Portugal on a voyage expected to last 14 months, retracing the routes of the slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. The original La Amistad was seized at sea by 53 kidnapped Africans led by Sengbe Pieh, who became a national hero, who rose up against their captors. They eventually won a long court case in the United States, which ruled that free men, if captured, must be returned to their homelands. The 35 who survived returned to Africa in 1841.
The former British colony’s hilly ocean-side capital is named after freed slaves, who resettled there in 1787, but it has suffered a brutal 1991-2002 civil war and elections this year revealed deep frustrations over grinding poverty.
Many assembled at the wharf grumbled that African American descendants of slaves are better off than Sierra Leoneans. The ship is due to sail on Dec. 18 for Senegal and Cape Verde, before crossing the Atlantic again for the West Indies.