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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Amistad to dock at Norwich Harbor for free tours April 24-28

    In this file photo, the schooner Amistad sails through Fishers Island Sound on Aug. 15, 2016, while en route to New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich ― The schooner Amistad will launch its 2023 educational season in Norwich later this month with a five-day visit to Norwich Harbor to provide free tours to groups and individuals, and educational programs to more than 100 students.

    Built in 2000, the Amistad is a replica of the early 19th century ship that made history in 1839, when African captives took over the ship and attempted to force the crew to return to Africa. The ship ended up in New London. The captives eventually won their freedom in 1841 in a famous U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

    Discovering Amistad purchased the replica schooner in 2015 and runs year-round educational programs. In winter, programs are held in classrooms throughout the state, Executive Director Paula Mann-Agnew said. From April to October, the ship travels to ports of call across Connecticut and beyond.

    This year’s “Voyage for Freedom” tour will start in Norwich and continue to New Haven, Stamford, Mystic, Middletown, Bridgeport, Norwalk and Martha’s Vineyard.

    The Amistad will arrive in Norwich on April 24. A welcoming ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. that day, with Mann-Agnew giving opening remarks. Mayor Peter Nystrom, Castle Church Pastor Adam Bowles, representatives from lead sponsor Chelsea Groton Bank, the Norwich NAACP branch, the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce will also address the gathering.

    Prayers will be said in multiple languages representing Norwich’s diverse ethnic residents, and musical performances and dances are planned. Robenson Charlotin, a singer at Castle Church, will sing “A Change is Gonna Come” and “Jubilee.”

    A tour of the ship will follow the speakers.

    Mann-Agnew said at each tour stop, Discovering Amistad invites local students and residents to bring their own perspectives to the message of freedom and civil rights.

    “It really is about connecting with communities on what human rights mean to them,” Mann-Agnew said, “We will have the Amistad story, and the rest is about Norwich.”

    The ship will depart in the morning of April 29. During the stay at Norwich Harbor, the ship will be open for free tours. Civic groups can schedule one-hour private tours, Mann-Agnew said. And so far, 120 students from Norwich schools plan to visit.

    One highlight of the week will be a theatrical portrayal of Margru, a captured African girl aboard the Amistad in 1839.

    The Norwich visit is a collaboration between Discovering Amistad, the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce and Chelsea Groton Bank, which is funding the visit with a $10,000 grant.

    Chamber Executive Director Angela Adams said Discovering Amistad sent out an inquiry about the upcoming season, and Adams quickly responded that Norwich was interested in hosting a visit.

    “Our goal is to get a nice welcoming and to let people know about it and to kick it off for the week,” Adams said, “because we’re going to have tours throughout the week. It’s going to be something for all ages.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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