“The freedom schooner Amistad visits Cuba.” That was an attention-getting headline in itself last week. Reading newspaper reports of the warm welcome and hundreds of school children clamoring aboard the Amistad gave me goose bumps. Some of those who came aboard were likely hearing about the history rooted in their own family tree.
The accounts of visitors’ interest and excitement has inspired me to do two things myself. I absolutely must put the movie Amistad in my Netflix queue! After all, Mystic Seaport’s waterfront served as a location for four days of shooting during the movie’s production.
The second thing I want to do is take a closer look at the quilts on the bunks of the Amistad the next chance I have to board the freedom schooner.
Professor Mary Staley, an art department faculty member of Montgomery College in Maryland, spent a portion of her sabbatical at Mystic Seaport, helping build the re-created Amistad. The experience motivated her to initiate the Amistad Friendship Quilt Project in 1999. More than 1,000 quilt blocks were created and contributed by individuals from around the country and around the world. The blocks were sewn into a total of 48 individual quilts, which were then donated to the Amistad. [See an example of one quilt made by Polly Poulin.]
Many of the images and symbols portrayed in the quilt blocks are taken from the historical events surrounding the takeover of the Amistad by the 53 West Africans who were being transported to Cuba to become part of slave trade there.
It’s often said a picture is worth a thousand words, but I venture to say these quilts must say a lot, too.
For more information about Amistad, please visit www.amistadamerica.org.
Blog written by Trudi Busey