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Tuesday, January 2, 2007
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff
One hundred and sixty-six years ago, a prominent Massachusetts politician, former President John Quincy Adams, played a role in black history by successfully persuading the U.S. Supreme Court to free a group of African captives who had staged a mutiny on the slave ship Amistad.
Thursday, when Deval Patrick takes his place in the history books as the state's first African-American governor, he will offer a symbolic nod to that storied past, taking the oath of office on a leather-bound Bible given by the freed captives to the former president.
"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," said Beverly A. Morgan-Welch, the executive director of the Museum of African American History and a co-chair of Patrick's inauguration committee. "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."
The book, named the Mendi Bible for the men's tribe, is part of the collection of the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy.
On an inside page, the Mendi men wrote a note of thanks to Adams, saying the Bible "has been a precious book to us in prison, and we love to read it now we are free."
Adams sent the men a letter back, saying, "It was from that book that I learnt to espouse your cause when you were in trouble."
Four years ago, Mitt Romney took the oath of office using a family Bible signed by his father, George Romney, a one-time governor of Michigan.
Michael Paulson can be reached at email@example.com
Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 05:59 PM