Essex Community College
The film "Amistad" is a historical drama based on the true story of a mutiny in 1839 by the newly captured African slaves that took place aboard the ship La Amistad off the coast of Cuba, the trip back to the northeast United States and legal battle that followed his capture by U.S. Coast Guard. It shows how, even though the case was won in the federal judicial districts, which was appealed by President Martin Van Buren of the Supreme Court, and how the former president John Quincy Adams took part in the proceedings.
How is this film accurate or inaccurate according to documented history?
The most serious inaccuracy of the film is it presents a highly misleading account of the case’s historical significance, in the process sugarcoating the relationship between the American judiciary and slavery. The film gives the distinct impression that the Supreme Court was convinced by Adams' plea to repudiate slavery in favor of the natural rights of man, thus taking a major step on the road to abolition. In fact, the Amistad case revolved around the Atlantic slave trade by 1840 outlawed by international treaty and had nothing whatever to do with slavery as a domestic institution. Incongruous as it may seem, it was perfectly possible in the nineteenth century to condemn the importation of slaves from Africa while simultaneously defending slavery and the flourishing slave trade within the United States. [The previous paragraph has been taken from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/74 and appears without attribution.]
Despite the fact that the sets are wrong: recorded speeches have been rewritten: multiple characters have been amalgamated or written out of history: the meaning of certain events has been altered so that they are no longer accurate. [This is a fragment. I haven’t checked to see if this appears online or not. If it does, you should give credit where credit is due.] In 1839 a group of...