Barber, John Warner, 1798-1885
John Warner Barber was born in 1798 in Windsor, Connecticut and lived his entire life in his native state. He was apprenticed as an engraver and became a master at the trade. He used this craft to illustrate many of his historical, religious, and children's writings. While he wrote primarily about Connecticut history and events, his travels throughout the country and abroad occasioned some texts about these experiences. He was married twice and was the father of five children. Barber died in New Haven, Connecticut in 1885. John Warner Barber's A History of the Amistad Captives (1840) is based on an historical event. Approximately fifty-four Africans had been sold into slavery and were being taken to Cuba on board the vessel Amistad. During their journey, they murdered the ship's captain and part of the crew, in an effort to return to Africa. Captured near New York in August 1839, the African men were taken prisoner, and a trial was held in September 1839 in Connecticut. The trial included debates on jurisdiction, whether the prisoners were slaves, and the legitimacy of ownership claimed by the two Spanish traders on board the Amistad. The history also contains details of the mutiny as described by its survivors and images and descriptions of each of the African prisoners. Following the trial proceedings, Barber discusses the ways and customs of Mendi, the prisoners' native country. Barber's sources include newspapers, court testimony, letters, and interviews with an African interpreter. At the time this work was published, the fate of the Africans was yet unknown, but the United States Supreme Court's ruling freed the slaves in 1841.