Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Downtown Tour

Amistad Memorial

165 Church Street

Painting of Sengbe Pieh, known as Joseph Cinqué displayed at the New Haven Museum. Courtesy New Haven Museum.

The Amistad Memorial commemorates the history of the July 1, 1839 revolt led by Sengbe Pieh, known as Joseph Cinqué. Fifty-three kidnapped Mendeland West Africans, to be sold as slaves in Cuba, took over the vessel, La Amistad to return to Africa. When the ship dropped anchor off the coast of Long Island, the Africans were brought to the New Haven jail. They became the subject of landmark legal battles, eventually settled by the Supreme Court on March 9, 1841, which ruled that the Africans had been captured and transported illegally and were free. This stimulated the abolitionist movement in the United States.

The Amistad Memorial Foundation commissioned the Amistad Memorial for the City of New Haven, Connecticut in 1990. Sculpted by Edward Hamilton, this three-sided bronze monument stands on the former site of the New Haven Jail, where the kidnapped Africans were imprisoned in 1839 while awaiting trial. The three sides of the sculpture depict the capture, trial, and return to Mende of Joseph Cinqué and his thirty-four surviving compatriots. The Amistad Memorial was officially dedicated September 18, 1992.

The backdrop for this majestic 14-foot relief sculpture is New Haven's City Hall. The building façade is the only remaining portion of the Victorian Gothic-style City Hall building designed by Henry Austin and constructed c. 1861. The rear and north wings of the building were re-constructed in 1986.

  • Text source courtesy Amistad Memorial Foundation.

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