President Martin Van Buren, guided in part by his desire to woo pro-slavery votes in his upcoming bid for reelection, wanted the prisoners returned to Spanish authorities in Cuba to stand trial for mutiny. A Connecticut judge, however, issued a ruling recognizing the defendants' rights as free citizens and ordered the U.S. government to escort them back to Africa. However, the government appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
Following two years' internment in the U.S. awaiting the verdict of the courts regarding their “revolt,” the captives eventually received their freedom on March 9, 1841. The Amistad Case was an episode far better known in the U.S. than on the other side of the Atlantic. But the incident had a far-reaching impact on both sides, influencing the course of American history and especially the development of Afro-American culture, while, in Sierra Leone, leading to the inauguration of American missionary activity that trained many of the elite group that led that nation’s movement to achieve independence from earlier colonial rule.
The Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) maintains a portal about Sierra Leone, including resources on its history, language, government, culture and more. A haven for freed slaves, the country remained under British rule for more than two centuries.