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Schooner Amistad has new non-profit owner in Connecticut

A Connecticut judge ended state receivership over the Amistad schooner — a replica of the ship African captives seized as they were being brought to Cuba in 1839 — and dissolved the embattled organization that had operated the ship.

Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina in Hartford ended the receivership last week, dissolved Amistad America and resolved its debts, state news outlets report.

State Attorney General George Jepsen had criticized the organization for losing its tax-exempt status and for racking up $2 million in debt amid poor management and bad record keeping.

The state had invested more than $9 million in the organization and the 129-foot schooner, including $2.5 million for construction in 1999 and 2000 and about $400,000 a year for operating costs.

The 129-foot Baltimore clipper, which is now at Mystic Seaport for maintenance and repairs, is a symbol of America’s early anti-slavery movement.

“The Amistad is worth saving,” Jepsen said in a statement Monday announcing that the receivership had ended, according to an Associated Press report in the New Haven Register. “The ship is a vital historical and cultural asset with a powerful, moving and relevant story to tell. To that end, the receivership process has largely been a success.”

The state was granted receivership of the financially troubled ship in August of 2014. Receiver Katharine Sachs and an advisory committee she formed have worked to chart a new course for the ship.

The ship was transferred to a new non-profit group, Discovering Amistad, which will oversee and operate it with a “Connecticut-based, education-centric mission,” according to a press release from Jepsen and state Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes.

“I am glad the Amistad will get a new start,” Barnes said in a report by The Day of New London. “It is an important educational tool about a sad chapter of our nation’s history and a symbol of Connecticut’s commitment to liberty for all. I appreciate that the attorney general and state agencies worked so well together to get this done.”