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Photo of Dr. E.B. Palmer presenting roses to playwright Ann Hunt Smith
Dr. E.B. Palmer presents roses to playwright Ann Hunt Smith while the cast of The Amistad Saga looks on.

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African American Cultural Complex
A Local Legacy

Did you see the movie "Amistad"?

The movie was based on a real life event. In 1839, a ship called La Amistad set sail from Havana, Cuba. It carried 53 Africans who had been kidnapped in West Africa. The ship was supposed to take them to plantations where they would work as slaves. But during the trip, the Africans rebelled and took over the ship. Their leader was a man named Cinque. The Africans told the ship crew to sail them back to Africa, but, at night, the sailors turned the opposite way. Finally, the ship ended up in New York, and the Africans were put in jail. An American attorney named Roger Sherman Baldwin, with the help of former President John Quincy Adams, defended the Africans in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Africans should be freed.

The story of Amistad was found in 1993 by Dr. E.B. Palmer, an educator who was doing research on African American history. He and his wife, Juanita, were founders of a museum and educational center for African American history -- the African American Cultural Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina. They thought the story of Amistad was an important part of African American and North Carolina history. So they decided to have a playwright write a play based on it. As a result, in 1999, the play The Amistad Saga: Reflections was performed at the African American Cultural Complex.

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