The film Amistad is based on a true event that occurred in 1839. It is about a mutiny by recently captured slaves, who take over a ship known as La Amistad, and the legal battle that followed regarding their freedom. The movie begins by showing many Africans chained together on the lower deck of La Amistad. They manage to break free and go to the upper deck and attack the sailors, leading a mutiny and taking over the ship. They leave two men alive to guide them back to Africa, but they point them towards the US.
Slaves were not considered as United States citizens and since he was a slave he could not sue in federal court. The decision started a lot anger in Americans and this pushed the country towards civil war. Dred Scott V. Sandford was a very unfair, racial court case. On March 6, 1875 people filled into the U.S. supreme court to decide Dred Scott’s outcome to be free. Dred Scott was suing his owner, John Sandford for his and his family’s freedom.Scott felt that he should be free because he was brought to the territory where having slaves were illegal.
With little or no navigational skills, the Africans had to rely on the remaining two Spaniards to get them to the coast of Africa. They ordered the crew to sail to Africa, but they were tricked. After two months on a sketchy course up the Eastern Seaboard, La Amistad is captured off the coast of Long Island (in the film, the Africans are captured off the coast of Connecticut, but in actuality, they were imprisoned in New Haven and and Hartford, Connecticut). The Africans are charged for murder and piracy. In the beginning, they are embraced by abolitionists Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) and Lewis Tappan (Stellan Skarsgard), as well as a young, idealistic real estate/property attorney named Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey).
The king of Ouidah however seemed adamant about getting rid of his slaves in the trade without regard to how the slaves were being treated or how it affected his country. The mixed opinions on the slave trade and the identical thoughts of slavery during the 17th century allows one to see the varying notions the two issues had on the kings in Africa. Works Cited Reilly, "Nzinga Mbemba: Appeal to the King of Portugal." Worlds of History, Volume Two: Since 1400: A Comparative Reader, July, 2010, [620-623]. Reilly, "Captain Thomas Phillips: Buying Slaves in 1693."
Another way Africans became slaves were if individuals were unable to pay fines that were imposed upon them (Sparks, 37). The Slave traders in African and the English slavers had a business relationship that was governed by the Parliament in London. Although, the trade was governed by the Parliament, both slaver traders and English slavers conducted trade in a way that was feasible for them (Spark, 18, 31). When the rivalry between Old Town and New Town arose, the English slavers did what was necessary for the business to go on as usual (Sparks, 18-19). The English slavers ambushed the slave traders of Old Town, capturing and enslaving Ephraim and Ancona (Spark, 21).
The Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the planters to sail to Africa. In August 1839, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, by the U.S. brig Washington. The planters were freed and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven, CT, on charges of murder. Although the murder charges were dismissed, the Africans continued to be held in confinement as the focus of the case turned to salvage claims and property rights. President Van Buren was in favor of extraditing the Africans to Cuba.
Amistad focuses on the aftermath of the revolt of 1839 on a Spanish slave ship called La Amistad. The slaves manage to kill many Spanish sailors and take over the ship with their leader, Cinque. Even though the slaves manage to win the uprising against the Spanish slave traders, the slaves are founded and held prisoner in Connecticut. Amistad focuses on the trials and long debates in court about the 44 slaves that take over La Amistad. The main issue that arises during courtroom sessions is the issue of ownership.
The slaves are then taken from the prison cells to the New Haven District Court where they are put in front of a judge for a legal battle. Roger Balwin, a lawyer employed by an abolitionist by the name of Mr. Tappen and his African American partner Mr. Joadson choose to represent the Africans. Baldwin and Joadson search the La Amistad and find a document hidden in the hull that proves the Africans were originally captives of a Portuguese slave ship by the name of The Tecora. Thus, the Africans were initially free citizens of another country and not enslaved what so ever. For this reason, Judge Coglin has ruled in favor of the Africans and Baldwin wins the case.
AMISTAD Amistad is a recreation of the true story about a 1839 slave revolt on a small Spanish schooner, La Amistad, ironically the Spanish word for "friendship." Spielberg does a great job in recreating the Amistad revolt that spurred a series of trials beginning in the lower courts of Connecticut and ultimately ending in the Supreme Court. Events following the revolt raise controversial questions about slavery and freedom. This case not only marks a milestone for Abolitionists in their fight against slavery but it also questioned the natural laws of our Constitution. Leading up to the trial of the Africans, Spielberg illustrates the horrors the slaves endured as they were captured and taken from their homes.
Not only was this case a milestone for the abolitionist movement, it also questioned the writings of the Declaration of Independence. Where all men created equal, like the constitution stated? Throughout the movie, Spielberg uses flashbacks to tell the story of one of the characters named Joseph Cinque. These flashbacks showed how he was captured. Blacks from other tribes kidnapped him and handed over to the Portuguese slave hunters.