The incident began during April 1839 on the West Coast of Africa when 53 Africans were kidnapped from the Mende country, in what is now known as modern Sierra Leone. They were sold into Spanish slave trade. The men, women and children were shackled and loaded aboard a ship where many endured physical abuse, sickness, and death during a horrific journey to Havana, Cuba.
The case took on historic significance when former President John Quincy Adams argued on behalf of the captives before the U.S. Supreme Court. This was the first civil rights case in America. In 1841, the 35 surviving Africans won their freedom, two years after they were captured. The Mende Association was then formed which later became The American Missionary Association.
The third panel represents the landing of the repatriated slaves on the shores of Africa. Here, the principal figures are Cinque, the missionaries, James Steel with his sea chest, and the little Black girls, Margue, who in later years had a son who returned to graduate from Yale University with a Ph.D. degree. In the background lie their ship at harbor, and a boatload of their party just landing on the beach.