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A history of the la amistad slave ship and the civil rights in america

The Amistad Slave Rebellion, 175 Years Ago

Instead, they are taken to Connecticut, where they are brought to trial for murder. Local abolitionists take up their case and hire a young and inexperienced real estate lawyer to represent them. Their case is taken to every level of the American judiciary and finally to the U. The genre is that of a courtroom drama or a social problem film. Though based on the true story of fifty-four Africans who were captured in Africa and brought to Cuba aboard the ship La Amistad, the movie contains some inaccurate or misleading information.

Amistad does, however, present a notable event in the abolitionist movement in impressive pictures. There are at least two scenes that contain graphic violence. At 152 minutes running time, the film is too long for an uninterrupted screening in the classroom. Therefore, it has been divided into chapters as they appear on the display of the DVD player in the proposed lesson plan.

Some smaller chapters have been left out. Most film chapters last about 10 minutes and are followed by student tasks. Where indicated, it is advisable to show the excerpts twice. Moreover, the movie offers a good opportunity to teach and discuss cinematic as well as rhetorical conventions in connection with the speech at the end of the film. Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement Slavery has existed since ancient times.

People were captured in wars and forced into slavery. In the transatlantic a history of the la amistad slave ship and the civil rights in america of the eighteenth century, 10 to 12 million Africans were transported to North and South America and the Caribbean.

In the so-called triangular trade at least 1. The slave trade was dominated by the British. Insatiable consumer demand e. Sugar became part of the British national diet and thus sustained the slave trade. The Quakers were the first to voice opposition to slavery. In 1792, 400,000 Britons, particularly women, boycotted slave-grown sugar. In 1807, a bill was passed by Parliament abolishing the trade with enslaved people within the British colonies, followed by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. The leading British abolitionist politician of this era was William Wilberforce 1759—1833.

In the United States, journalists, novel writers and preachers led the way to abolitionism—such as William Lloyd Garrison 1805—1879 Harriet Beacher Stowe 1811—1896and John Brown 1800—1859. There were fewer slaves in the North, where they mostly worked as servants. By 1804, the anti-slavery movement, which was started by the Quakers in 1775, had succeeded in the North. New York abolished slavery in 1799. New Jersey was the last of the northern states to abolish slavery in 1804.

The importation of slaves into the United States was officially banned in 1808.

  • In 1807, a bill was passed by Parliament abolishing the trade with enslaved people within the British colonies, followed by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833;
  • A Connecticut Freedom Trail has been established to commemorate African American historical sites, with a strong emphasis on the Amistad story;
  • For the past forty years, no subject has received more scholarly attention.

In the South, the abolitionist movement supported the Underground Railroad, a clandestine organization that helped Blacks escape to the North. In the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared that all slaves in areas currently in rebellion would be permanently free.

  1. TASK 2 Explain the symbolism of the plant. When they are brought back to court, they pass by Christians once more.
  2. Both those who advocated its practice and those who quietly condoned it by inaction deserved condemnation.
  3. They demanded to go back home, to Africa. Cinque tells the story of how they were captured, brought to Lomboko slave fortress in Sierra Leone , transported on the vessel Tecora to Cuba and how they were sold there and were transferred to the Amistad.
  4. The Van Buren administration immediately filed an appeal with the circuit court.

Slavery was forbidden in the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865. Circuit Court which referred it to the lower District Court as a civil case.


The question was whether the Africans were born on Cuban plantations and thus were slaves under Spanish law or had been captured in Africa, which meant that they had been unlawfully acquired. District attorney William Holabird plays a very unpleasant and cynical role as prosecutor. The decision is upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and has the ultimate legal authority in interpreting the U. The President of the United States appoints the justices as vacancies occur, but the appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.

List of Characters

The court consists of nine justices one Chief Justice, eight Associate Justiceswho may decide cases by majority. Their decisions can only be overturned by another Supreme Court decision. He hopes to demonstrate that American courts are truly independent from outside influence and strongly suggests that slavery must be eliminated, even if that means drawing the country closer to civil war.

The justices rule in favor of the Africans in an eight-to-one decision. List of Characters Cinque, a proud and intelligent African, is considered to be the leader of the group of African captives as he led the mutiny. He is one of the Mende people, whose language is called Mende as well. As the case develops, he grows from a lawyer who sees slaves as property into a fervent abolitionist who fights for the Africans with passionate determination.

Mutiny on the Amistad slave ship

Lewis Tappan is an advocate of abolition who promotes the cause of the Amistad captives and publishes newspapers. His The Emancipator is a famous anti-slavery newspaper. Theodore Joadson is a fictional African-American abolitionist and former slave who joins his friend Tappan and plays an essential role in convincing Adams to defend the Africans in the Supreme Court. President Van Buren is in the middle of his re-election campaign and only reluctantly deals with the case of the Amistad slaves when he realizes that the decision about their fate will influence his political future.

John Quincy Adams is the frail ex-President who eventually speaks on behalf of the Africans before the Supreme Court but is mostly seen tending flowers in his conservatory. Southern Senator John C. Calhoun is a racist who strongly influences Van Buren. The Spanish Queen Isabella II is eleven years old when the Amistad incident takes place and thus is portrayed as a girl whose counselors compose the letters concerning the case.

Would you personally choose anyone else to play this part? If not, why not? Summaries of Selected Scenes and Tasks Chapter 1 5: They fight and kill all the white sailors except two Ruiz and Montezwho are supposed to sail them back to Africa. The conversation among the Africans is not subtitled, and so the viewers have to draw conclusions from what they see. As an opener to the film, the students might brainstorm about slavery throughout history and in America in particular, as well as cases of mutiny they know about from literature or film for example, Mutiny on the Bounty.

TASK 2 Summarize what happens in this scene in writing or orally. If needed, make use of the following phrases: Chapters 3 and 4 14: The Spanish Queen Isabella II age 11 is informed about the incident and so is President Van Buren, who is campaigning for re-election and who fears that the slaves from the Amistad might damage his chances in the pro-slavery South.

Then the viewer is acquainted with Lewis Tappan and his friend Theodore Joadson, two abolitionists, in their New Haven newspaper office. The property lawyer Roger Baldwin offers Tappan and Joadson his help as the Blacks are considered material property chattel. TASK 1 Add information about the following parties and explain their roles.

Find out about the legal situation of slaves in the U. Over dinner, Baldwin explains the legal background a history of the la amistad slave ship and the civil rights in america the case against the Africans. He visits Cinque in the prison. By drawing maps, Baldwin finds proof for his assumption that they were captured in Africa. Baldwin and Joadson search the Amistad for evidence. Baldwin finds papers that confirm that the Africans originally sailed on a Portuguese vessel, the Tecora, which was engaged in illegal slave trade.

Access Check

President Van Buren is shown in his office with his advisors. As the case of the slaves is of great importance for the future of the country and could lead to civil war, it is decided that the judge who is hearing the case should be replaced.

Propose ways that could solve their language problem. Suppose he keeps a personal diary. Write an entry that covers the last few days.

Supreme Court Rules in Amistad Slave Ship Case

He advises Joadson to find out who the Africans are. During their talk, Adams moves a plant so that it will get sufficient sunlight. In the meantime, Baldwin has found a translator. One of the Africans has died and the translator provides the Americans with information about the Mende habits. The Christians sing again. If you find out something about them, their story will become interesting.

TASK 2 Explain the symbolism of the plant. TASK 3 Give a short account of how the translator is found and compare it with the approaches you had thought of. Cinque tells the story of how they were captured, brought to Lomboko slave fortress in Sierra Leonetransported on the vessel Tecora to Cuba and how they were sold there and were transferred to the Amistad. The Africans are treated cruelly on board the Tecora. The students might be upset by the violence shown if they see it without preparation.

In the meantime, the Africans have been brought to court again and Cinque finishes his story there. The Africans have been given clothes. This chapter should be watched without tasks. However, as an introduction the function of flashbacks in literature and film can be discussed. Chapter 12, 13 and 14 18: One of the Africans is shown looking at pictures in the Bible.

  1. In addition to the one killed during the mutiny, nine had died of disease and exposure or from consuming medicine on board in an effort to quench their thirst. The district court judge ruled that the African slave trade was illegal under international treaties; for that reason, the Africans were wrongly taken.
  2. Over dinner, Baldwin explains the legal background of the case against the Africans.
  3. As history, this account of a Cuban slave ship seized in 1839 by its African captives, and their legal travail that ended in the U.
  4. Cinque tells Adams of a Mende tradition, which says when a member of the tribe needs help they appeal to their ancestors.

There are cross-cuts between him thinking and praying at a chapel and the Africans talking about the Bible back in prison. When they are brought back to court, they pass by Christians once more. When giving his verdict, the judge asks and answers the fundamental question: I believe they were.