Death Before Slavery
[James or Isaac Sheffield]
The brave Congolese Chief. . .
New York: Moses Y. Beach
Prints & Photographs Division
In June 1839, African slaves aboard the Spanish
ship Amistad, bound for Cuba, seized control of the
vessel and attempted to pilot it back to Africa. They were recaptured,
however, and charged with murder and piracy. The mutiny grabbed
headlines and became a cause célèbre for American abolitionists.
Print publishers were quick to capitalize on images of the incident,
like this portrait print of Joseph Cinquez. Editors of the New
York Sun sent an artist to the prison ship to sketch
the leader of the revolt, and issued this portrait, "scooping"
competing newspapers. In the ensuing trial former U.S. President
and prominent abolitionist John Quincy Adams represented the Africans
before the Supreme Court and won their acquittal and return transport