Staging the Amistad collects in print for the first time plays about the Amistad slave revolt by three of Sierra Leone’s most influential playwrights of the latter decades of the twentieth century: Charlie Haffner, Yulisa Amadu “Pat” Maddy, and Raymond de’Souza George. Until the late 1980s, when the first of these plays was performed, the 1839 shipboard slave rebellion and the return of its victors to their homes in what is modern-day Sierra Leone had been an unrecognized chapter in the country’s history.
The plays recast the tale of heroism, survival, and resistance to tyranny as a distinctly Sierra Leonean story, emphasizing the agency of its African protagonists. For this reason, Haffner, Maddy, and de’Souza George counterbalance the better-known American representations of the rebellion, which center on American characters and American political and cultural concerns.
The first public performances of these plays constituted a watershed moment. Written and staged immediately before and after the start of Sierra Leone’s decade-long conflict, they brought the Amistad rebellion to public consciousness. Furthermore, their turn to a uniquely Sierra Leonean history of heroic resistance to tyranny highlights the persistent faith in nation-state nationalism and the dreams of decolonization.