Amistad afloat again

The arrival of Amistad at the Custom House Pier in New London Monday was a good development in a saga full of expectations and disappointments.

And it brought more good news: In stage one of resurrecting its educational and historical mission under new management, the replica of the ship brought to shore here in 1839 bearing African captives will be around regularly, offering its new school program free in the city schools.

That apt and generous offer came Monday from Len Miller, chairman of the board of Discovering Amistad, the nonprofit organization that took over the operation of the ship after the state seized it and the court appointed a receiver for the operator, Amistad America.

The failings of Amistad America to care for the ship, pay its bills and make it available to Connecticut residents have been well documented. On Monday the focus was on an expanded future in which Miller said the ship's mission will be to "move things forward in a postive way" at a time when the nation's racial divide has been painfully clear.

Having a definite focus will benefit the ship, the crew and the visitors, and that in turn should make it easier to raise funds to support Amistad.

During the Amistad America years, the organization relied heavily on state funding of about $300,000 a year. The state then bonded funds for Discovering Amistad to purchase and repair the ship at Mystic Seaport. Now that it is afloat again, Miller has said the board of Discovering Amistad expects to start fundraising this fall, once the word is out that the ship is back at its mission and visiting Connecticut ports.

State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, who succeeded in calling attention to the poor management that left the ship unseaworthy and its finances in tatters, has said she wants an end to state support for the rehabilitated ship. Rather, The Day believes that Discovering Amistad should take its place among the cultural and historic institutions that are eligible for state grants covering a portion of their expenses, while raising at least half of its funding from other sources.

The telling of the Amistad story deserves to be counted among the state's greatest and most pertinent historical assets.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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