UCC acquires historic Amistad letter
Written by Jimi Izrael
December 2002

The UCC has just acquired an important letter that speaks to its legacy as a force for change. In September, Justice and Witness Ministries, the Connecticut Conference and Amistad America combined resources to purchase a letter signed by Roger S. Baldwin, the attorney for the Mendi captives from the Amistad trials in 1839. The artifact was bought from Midwest Auction Galleries for $5,865 with Amistad America of Mystic, Conn., paying 50 percent of the purchase price.

The Amistad trials were held to determine if the Mendi captives aboard the schooner La Amistad were property or free men. UCC forebears advocated hard for the release of the men.

"The 1840 letter from Roger Sherman Baldwin to Theodore Sedgwick is an important historical manuscript in that it sheds more light on the defense team of the Amistad case," says UCC archivist Bridgette Kelly. "This is the first time that I am aware of that U.S. Senator Benjamin Tappan of Ohio is mentioned in connection to the Amistad case."

Lewis Tappan, the senator's brother, was responsible for spearheading the fundraising monies to care for the Africans and pay for the Africans' legal defense.

"The Roger Baldwin letter is an important acquisition because he was a leader of the legal defense team for the Mendi people of West Africa," says the Rev. F. Allison Phillips, executive associate of Justice and Witness Ministries. "It reminds us that our church has been involved in working for justice for more that 160 years."

Baldwin's letter is being kept in an acid-free folder in the UCC archives as it awaits transportation to its permanent home, still to be determined