amistad_web.jpgMIAMI — On Sunday, March 10 during its regular 10:30 a.m. Worship Service, The Church of the Open Door, Congregational, United Church of Christ in Liberty City celebrated Amistad Sunday.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis spoke on the topic, How a Ship Led to an Open Door, during the service at the church, 6001 N.W. Eighth Ave., at which graduates of American Missionary Association colleges were honored.

The 2013 honorees are Iral D. Porter, Fisk University; Dr. Patricia Duncan, Talladega College; Cecilia Stewart, Howard University; Rev. Shedrick Gilbert, Hampton University; and Collette Hart Richardson, Clark-Atlanta University.

Members of the public were invited as 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 the national heritage.

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 U.S. Revenue Brig Washington off the coast of Long Island, charged with mutiny and threatened with return to slavery. Connecticut Congregationalists formed theAmistad 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.

Amistad Sunday celebrates the founding of the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist organization in the United States with integrated leadership, which established more than 500 schools, churches, libraries and universities for the newly freed African Americans of the South.