This great book of David pesci remains essential reading for understanding the transatlantic slave trade.
The story begins with Singbe, to Mende slave, awakening to the icy touch of a child’s corpse. From the first words of the book, the reader’s nightmare begins as Singbe’s test and the story of slavery is told with chilling clarity and skill.
Tea Friendshipwhat does friendship mean), to Spanish slave ship, crosses the Atlantic bound for the coasts of Cuba with its human cargo. The kidnapping of slaves from Africa, although banned by the British and Americans in 1809, continued for many years as the Spanish and Portuguese governments were not bound by these laws.
Transporting Singbe and his group must have been a routine of travel for Captain Ramon Ferrer and his men. After all, he and his crew had been handling slaves for more than twenty years. But against all odds, Singbe and his men took control of the Friendship. The cook and the captain were killed in the skirmish. But the slaves had no intention of killing the entire crew in retaliation. All they wanted was to go home.
Since they knew nothing of nautical, they had to trust one of the sailors, Increase, to steer the ship back to Africa. But through cunning Increase maneuvered the wheels in the opposite direction and the ship ended up along the coast of America, triggering a policy storm from Shakespearean dimensions.
Therefore, the book is primarily about the tribulations of the captured slaves when the American justice system decided their fate. Interestingly, only the Africans had to face the courts to prove their innocence, and not their Spanish captors. They have to get their own lawyer while the US Secretary of State instructs the New York Federal District Attorney to extend to the Spanish, Ruiz Y Increase, ‘every courtesy and measure of legal assistance ‘.
Therefore, although, to the credit of the United States, the battle would be fought in the courts, the Africans were ‘going against Ingrained sentiment regarding the black race and a system that has legally tolerated slavery for over two hundred years..
The legal arguments on both sides were fierce, intricate, and seductive. Were the Africans owned by Spanish merchants Ruiz Y Increase? If this were the case, they would have to be returned to the control of the Spanish authorities and to be tried before the Spanish courts. Or were they free men stolen from the coast of Africa? If this were the case, then the US government, according to its own laws, would have to guarantee their safe return to Africa.
Did they commit murder when they seized control of the ship, or were their actions to be considered self-defense and a justifiable attempt to break free from illegal slavery? Judge Judson he ruled in favor of the Africans to the detriment of his aspirations to be a Supreme Court justice. The case was appealed by the US government and taken to the Supreme Court where the judge’s conclusions Judson were confirmed.
The author introduces us to some of the historical figures of the time. The president of the United States Van buuren take a personal interest in the case. Court documents show how he tried to use his office to manipulate the case, and cooperated with the Spanish authorities without regard to due process.
He seemed to be a man who valued the results of the upcoming elections above principle. He did not realize the importance of the plight of Africans for his presidency. Like the sailor in the Coleridge ‘s The rhyme of the ancient sailor, he could see but did not understand what he was seeing. The Africans of Friendship were the albatross to his leadership that he fired for free.
There are the Tappan brothers Lewis Y Arthur, who risked their lives fighting not only for the cause of Africans, but were also vociferous abolitionists. Judge Judson He had an outstanding legal mind with aspirations for a higher position. Yet he keeps the law and frees Singbe and his men despite warnings that such a decision could jeopardize his career.
Then there was also John quincy adams, a former president of the United States, described by the author ‘like a man of high intelligence ‘ with a ‘reputation as a passionate speaker’. John adams lends his formidable intellect and eloquence to the African Friendship cause, and ensures freedom and passage for all of them back to Africa. Far from being a test of Singbe and his men, it was the American nation that was in the dock.
Singbe was not the only hero to emerge from this journey of darkness. His legal team had to overcome impossible obstacles. They were assisted by the American constitution, which was an almost insurmountable moat against injustice.
There is no finesse in the way the author tells his story, and the crudeness of slavery is cleverly described in the book with words like shackle, chains, musket, blow, lifeless, hunting, blood, knife, lash, load, smuggling, tribesmen, light skinned, black skinned, and of course death.. He wrote it so that readers don’t need an explanation from the author.
Friendship is a wonderfully told and well-researched book. The movie of Steven spielberg with Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Y Djimon hounsou does justice to this story of a slave who put some of the most powerful players in the slave trade to shame.
However, this grotesque and heroic slavery saga is likely to remain in the reader’s mind long after reading the book.