Wednesday, January 03, 2007

John Quincy Adams' Mendi Bible

In keeping with today's trend, I just learned that when Deval Patrick is sworn in as the first black governor of Massachusetts tomorrow, he will also be using a book of particular historical importance: a Bible given to John Quincy Adams by the Amistad captives.

The Boston Globe reports that the Bible - now in the possession of the Adams National Historic Park in Quincy - was presented to Adams following the Supreme Court decision which set them free and allowed their return to Africa. In an inscription, the men wrote that the book "has been a precious book to us in prison, and we love to read it now we are free." Adams responded in a letter of gratitude which reads in part "It was from that book that I learnt to espouse your cause when you were in trouble."

Beverly Morgan-Welch, head of the Museum of African American History in Boston and co-chair of Patrick's inaugural committee, told the Globe "This Bible is a quintessential American symbol, one of democracy, and the inner workings of freedom, and our system of laws, and the abolitionist movement, and it represents a real victory for Africans who stood up for themselves. The Bible was given to Adams by these freed African men because they so appreciated that Adams was not just their legal advocate, but he believed in their freedom, and here we are, how many years later, and we are installing Massachusetts' first African-American governor."

A very good and accurate account of the Amistad case is to be found here, and if you've never read JQA's unbelievable Supreme Court argument, I urge you, do so.

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