Amistad is a movie built off of historical events that provides entertainment and learning experience. The content of this movie was to show the viewers the timeline of the events that took place in the 1830’s of the Amistad case. Mainly, to educate the viewers on the history of the Middle Passage, Abolitionist Movement, and the struggles that slaves had to endure during this period of time. The movie takes place in year 1839. During this year, a slave ship transported a large group of African natives from Eastern Africa and sold them into the Spanish slave trade. Once greased and “presentable” to be auctioned off, 53 slaves were purchased by two Spaniards who wanted to take them to another part of Cuba. The slaves were chained and shackled as they were forced to load the ship known as La Amistad. A majority of the slaves had been kidnapped, beaten, and forced into slavery. This movie shows that the slaves had come from such a happy place where all was good and they were happy, into a life of beatings, labor, and sickness. “The slaves were kept in barracoons where they were separated from their families, branded, and dehumanized” (Out of Many, PPS 24). The slaves were fed little to no food. Many of the slaves died of diseases, hunger, or dysentery, while others would commit suicide and jumped overboard. All the events of the sickness, deaths, beatings, and rapes that happened during this scene was based on actual details of what happened during their travels in the Middle Passage; “The triangular trade in which millions of Africans were forcibly transported to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade” (Out of Many, pg. 82)
One thing I didn’t like about the movie was the flashback scenes. Although, the scenes showed what happened in the slaves lives before, during, and after loading the Amistad, so many things happened in the scenes where it was hard to keep up. However, after being on the ship for a few days, the slaves broke free from their chains and shackles and revolted. They killed a majority of the crew with the exception of two, who they forced to take them back to Africa. The two did not however did not plan to guide them back to Eastern Africa, they instead tried to find a way to get back to Cuba. With using the sun as a guide during the day, the slaves were on route back home. However, during the night, the two Spaniards would direct the ship the opposite way with all the different directions, the ship was mistakenly guided to the United States of America. Once in the United States, the slaves who revolted the ship are captured and taken into custody, and this is where the plot thickens because now it’s focused on if the slaves were owned or if they were taken and should be set free.
During the first trial, the scene takes place in a courtroom where the 53 slaves that are in custody is represented by John Quincy Adams, at the time a congressman. John Adams seemed to have a genuine connection to slaves because he fought really hard to prove that they weren’t owned and that they were captured and traded in the high seas. Once proven that the slaves weren’t originally owned and that they were forcibly taken from their homes, the slaves were still in custody and they weren’t getting set free because United States Attorney appealed the decision to the highest court, which caused the Africans to not be set free and to await another trial. Although, during this time slavery was legal and people made it an important part of the country’s economy, the United States and England made trading slaves on the seas illegal; this Amistad case showed the issues of slavery in the United States of America because owning slaves in the United States was legal but the slave trade that happened on the seas, although illegal, still continued and nothing was done.
In the end, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Africans and decided that they should be set free. “John Quincy Adams was a key figure in the abolitionist’ one undoubted victory; the fight to free the fifty-three slaves on the Spanish ship Amistad and return them to Africa” (Out of Many, pg. 356). In the end, 35 slaves were returned home because many of the other slaves died in prison or at sea.