Maine is busy preparing for the schooner Amistad to sail into Portland Harbor on May 7 for an eight-day visit. The UCC's Maine Conference has joined forces with the City of Portland and KeyBank to host a week of educational, cultural and spiritual events to celebrate the importance of freedom and human rights.
Governor John Baldacci and members of the congressional delegation will be on hand to welcome the Amistad to its first and only visit to Maine.
In 1839, 53 Africans who were illegally captured from West Africa, mutinied aboard the cargo schooner La Amistad, taking command of the vessel. After 63 days at sea, the ship was apperhended by the U.S. Coast Guard and sailed to New Haven, Conn., where the captives were jailed on murder charges.
Members of New England Congregational churches befriended them and took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court where fomer president John Quincy Adams argured their case—and won their freedom.
The Rev. William Inderstrodt, a retired UCC minister and volunteer with the project, is familiar with the Amistad and the significance it holds for the UCC and for the abolitionist movement. He also feels connected to the schooner because it was built in Connecticut, the state of his 29-year ministry, including an eight-year stint as Minister to Business and Government for the Connecticut Conference.
"The face of Maine is changing. The Amistad is going to provide us with an opportunity to look at our past," he says, "to facilitate ways to reinforce the importance of freedom and human justice as we begin to address the challenges of today."