The Amistad case
, where the US Supreme Court found in favour of the Africans.
It has an interesting structure, as the story moves from the most well-known parts of this history (the Amistad case
in popular history), and the most central actors in it (the abolitionists and captives), to its less-known but equally relevant aspects (the slavers, Africa, and Cuba).
Although not discussed by Helmholz, John Quincy Adams's argument at the bar of the Supreme Court in the Amistad case
(1841) provides one high-profile example of a prominent American attorney and politician tying together these various threads during the course of litigation.
The work is divided into nine chapters: the Amistad case
; the Atlantic and world history; the prisoners of the Amistad; capitalism of human bodies and sugar: the economics of the ohidden Atlantico; slavery in Cuba; Mongos and Negreros, captains and crews; Africa; Atlantic-Caribbean networks, lenders, and slave-trade entrepreneurs; the end of human smuggling on the Atlantic.
The legal ramifications of the Amistad case
, Earl Maltz comments in his book, Slavery and the Supreme Court, had no real impact on "the domestic institution of slavery" or even on "the balance of political power between the North and the South" (67).
In the Amistad case
, a group of Africans had been illegally kidnapped in Africa by Portuguese pirates and sold to Spanish slave-masters in Havana.
Lindsley's Love and Friendship (1809), a farce that features an impassioned complaint against the Middle Passage delivered by a cross-dressing white female actor in blackface, to The Black Schooner (1839), a hugely popular melodrama inspired by the Amistad case
, to Harry Seymour's Aunt Dinah's Pledge (1850), an adaptation of a temperance novel that emphasized its African American heroine's refined sensibility and capacity for moral commitment even as it also invoked the rhetoric of antislavery reformers who associated the slaveholder's unchecked authority with the carnal excess of the inebriate.
Fear of violence inspired performances like The Slave (1816); The Gladiator (1831), displacing Nat Turner on to Spartacus; The Black Schooner (1839), dramatizing the Amistad case
; and Ossawatomie Brown (1859), sentimentalizing John Brown.
The discussion of the Amistad case
and slavery makes for interesting reading.
Davis opens with a discussion of the Amistad case
as a quintessential example of the multinational character of slavery in the New World.
In the case of Amistad, the dramatic altering of the Adams and Baldwin characters solely to add drama takes power away from the deeply-rooted and organized abolitionist movement that existed during the period of the Amistad case
. The film's portrayal of Southerners and abolitionists may also lead to the conclusion that they were most responsible for the looming Civil War, ignoring the social, cultural, and economic causes of that conflict.