Amistad Review

Satisfactory Essays
Amistad Review

Steven Spielberg's "Amistad" is centered on the legal status of

Africans caught and brought to America on a Spanish slave ship. The

Africans rise up and begin a mutiny against their captors on the high

seas and are brought to trial in a New England court. The court must

decide if the Africans are actually born as slaves or if they were

illegally brought from Africa. If the Africans were born as slaves

then they would be guilty of murder, but if their being brought here

from Africa is illegal, they had the right to defend themselves. This

was not such a simple issue since the slave trade had been banned by

treaties at the time of the Amistad incident in 1839. The movie starts

on board the Amistad. On the ship the leader of the Africans, Cinque,

frees himself from his chains and frees the rest of his tribe. They

slaves are being taken from a Havana slave market to another

destination in Cuba. The two men who bought them are spared, and

promise to take the slaves back to Africa. Instead, the Amistad is

guided into US waters, and the Africans end up being tried in a New

England court. Luckily, it is a Northern court. If the slaves had

ended up in the South they would have no chance of getting off. The

slaves are first defended by Roger Baldwin a well-off real estate

lawyer who bases the case on property law. Only slowly does Baldwin

come to see his clients, the slaves, as human beings. Also, two Boston

abolitionists, an immigrant called Tappan, and a former slave named

Joadson are in the defense. Together these men work to try to free the

53 slaves aboard the Amistad. After the slaves are tried and freed at

the New England district court, they must go to the Supreme Court. In

the Supreme Court John Quincy Adams, former president, who is fighting

for the freedom of all men, defends them. He gives an 11 minute speech

and persuades the Supreme Court to free the slaves as individuals

because all men are free under the Declaration of Independence. The

slaves are freed once and again and choose to return to their

homeland. However, Cinque discovers that his village has been

destroyed and the rest of his family has already been sold into

slavery. This is where Cinque emerges as a powerful character. He was

once a free farmer living in peace with his now lost wife and family.
Get Access