Sierra Leone Spokesman Says Spain Owes Them Reparations

Sep 24, 2013

An official of the west African nation of Sierra Leone says the Spanish government should pay reparations to his country and the city of New Haven over the revolt of African captives aboard the slave ship Amistad. The remarks were made in the Elm City last week.

In 1839, the Spanish slave ship Amistad was taken over by 53 African captives, from what is now Sierra Leone, as they were on their way to be sold as slaves. The ship eventually landed on Long Island, where it was seized by the U.S. government. The 53 captives later won their freedom in a monumental case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last week, Sierra Leone presidential spokesman Alpha Kanu said the Spanish government owes his country and the city of New Haven reparations for what happened on the Amistad.

"I think it caught a lot of people off guard, it caught me off guard," said Hanifah Washington, executive director of Amistad America. "It wasn't a scripted part of his speech, but it was an interesting one." Washington said she heard Kanu make the reparation remark twice during last Friday's ceremonies commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Amistad Committee.

Washington said the remarks were thought-provoking. "I felt challenged by the remark," she said. "Reparations are not something I think about on a daily basis." Washington added that she wasn't sure whether Kanu's comments mean the government of Sierra Leone is actually in the process of seeking reparations from the Spanish government.