Amistad welcomed to New London for the summer

New London — The New London Maritime Society and Custom House Museum officially welcomed the Amistad to its summer home at Custom House Pier Friday afternoon, beginning the schooner's long stay in the port where its story in Connecticut began.

"It was here in 1839 that the Amistad was first brought to port," said City Council President Wade A. Hyslop to a small crowd that braved chilly winds to welcome the ship. "This is a part of our U.S. history, part of our Connecticut history and, more importantly, part of our local history."

Amistad arrived in New London on Tuesday after undergoing repairs at Mystic Seaport this winter, which followed a report by a receiver on the future of the ship.

The financially troubled Amistad will stay in New London while its home port in New Haven is dredged over the summer. While the ship will not be sailing, it will be open for scheduled tours.

Students from the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School World Drumming Ensemble and the Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School played and sang songs of welcome before being the first of many students who will visit the ship this summer.

Beginning this month and continuing through the fall, the Amistad and the corresponding Custom House exhibit "Amistad: A True Story of Freedom" will be available to students from schools, summer camps and home school groups for educational tours and presentations.

The ship will be open to school groups in May, June, September and October for scheduled visits between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It will be open in July and August to home school and camp groups for scheduled visits between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.on Thursdays.

For Custom House Director Susan Tamulevich, the summer programs will be an educational opportunity and a great addition to the Custom House's exhibit, housed on the third floor of the museum.

"We've never had the Amistad here for more than a couple days," Tamulevich said. "You can look right out the windows and see the ship."

Also present to welcome the ship to New London was Kim Silva, coordinator of Amistad Tours for the Farmington Historical society and a board member of the Connecticut Freedom Trail.

"This is the first time we are able to collaborate with various Amistad organizations," said Silva, who said she hopes the new joint efforts will draw visitors from across the state to New London.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said that having the ship in New London will help visitors celebrate and learn from the ship and its history.

"Injustice still exists everywhere," Finizio said. "Let us never forget our past."

To book a visit, contact Tamulevich at (860) 447-8700 or nlmaritimedirector@gmail.com

j.hopper@theday.com

Twitter: @JessHoppa

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