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Church celebrates the historical Amistad story

caines | 3/14/2013, 5:30 a.m.

College graduates were honored

The Church of the Open Door celebrated Amistad Sunday on March 10. During the service, graduates of American Missionary Association colleges were honored and Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis spoke on: How a Ship Led to an Open Door. The 2013 honorees are Iral D. Porter, alumna of Fisk University; Dr. Partricia Duncan, alumna of Talladega College; Cecilia Stewart, an alumna of Howard University; Rev. Shedrick Gilbert, an alumnus of Hampton University; and Collette Hart Richardson, an alumna of Clark Atlanta University. Amistad Sunday celebrated the founding of the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist organization in the U.S. with integrated leadership that established over 500 schools, churches, libraries and universities for the newly freed Blacks of the South. In 1839, a group of enslaved Africans broke free while being transported around the island of Cuba aboard the coasting schooner Amistad. They attempted to sail the small vessel back to Africa, but were captured by the US Revenue Brig Washington off the coast of Long Island, charged with mutiny, and threatened with return to slavery. Connecticut Congregationalists formed the Amistad Committee, which organized a legal defense, eased the captives confinement during the lengthy court case, and eventually funded their return to Africa after winning a favorable decision from the US Supreme Court. The Amistad Committee became a seed for wider advocacy for the abolition of slavery in the United States. In 1846, Lewis Tappan, an Amistad Committee leader, founded the American Missionary Association. The Church of the Open Door joined other United Churches of Christ in commemorating the 1839 struggle for freedom, the Amistad Committee, and the American Missionary Association's history as a part of our heritage. Miami Times staff report