Watercolour painting of the 'Amistad' slave ship. archive. | Wikipedia


The 'Amistad' was an 18th century schooner that captured Africans and forced them into the slave trade.

In 1839, there was a mutiny onboard and two crew members were killed, including the Skipper, Ramon Ferrer who was from Ibiza.

The slaves tried to sail the boat to Africa, but ended up in the United States where they were jailed as runaway slaves.

A lawyer called John Quincy Adams argued their case in court, pointing out that the men were not slaves, but were in actual fact, free citizens from another country.

The story of the horror that the slaves were subjected to onboard 'Amistad' was brought to the silver screen in 1997 by Hollywood Director, Steven Spielberg. Djimon Hounsou won several awards for his lead role as Cinque and Anthony Hopkins was nominated for a raft of gongs, including an Oscar for his supporting role as John Quincy Adams.

It's a story that has fascinated historians the world over and the harsh conditions the men were forced to endure have been written about by Authors Antoni Ferrer, Joan Planells and Pere Vilàs in an issue of the publication Fites, which was edited by the Associació d'Amics del Museu Arqueològic of Ibiza and Formentera.

After after being violently ripped from their families and homelands and forced onto the ‘Amistad’ the men were likely destined for Cuba, where Spanish businessmen had used slave labour on their plantations for years, with the approval of the corrupt authorities.

The judicial process that followed the uprising and Captain Ferrer's death prompted researchers such as Philip D. Curtin, emeritus Professor at Johns Hopkins University, who specialises in African History and the Atlantic slave trade, to investigate the slave trade that survived the first ban in the early 19th century.

Curtin and other researchers discovered that between 1817 and 1843, the names of 802 captains/skippers and 847 vessels in the area were dedicated to slavery.

Considering the mass migration to America at that time, the ‘Amistad' may not have been the only slave ship with a Balearic skipper.