U.S. Supreme Court Rules on the Amistad Case, March 9, 1841

The Amistad case is a seminal case in the history of slavery in America. A group of men captured in West Africa and being transported to America revolted and took control of the transport ship, the Amistad. Intending to sail back to Africa, the ship was instead diverted to New York where the men were taken into custody. The case made its way through the court system with abolitionist lawyers representing the captured men. John Quincy Adams (sixth President of the United States 1825-1829) joined the legal team of abolitionists and presented a powerful argument to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking the release of the captives. On March 9th, 1841 the Supreme Court ruled that the men had been illegally enslaved. With the financial assistance of the abolitionists, the men of the Amistad were then able to return to West Africa. The story of the Amistad was made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg.

To learn more:
Film: Amistad (DreamWorks, c2004. Dir. Steven Spielberg) LAW-Reserve (Videos) VC-A014
Amistad David Pesci (Marlow & Co. 1997) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) PS3566.E736A65 1997
Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy Howard Jones (Oxford 1988) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) E447.J66 1988
Black Odyssey: The Case of the Slave Ship Amistad Mary Cable (Penguin 1977) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) E447.C24 1977


Check it Out: The Amistad Revolt


This documentary is the history of the 1839 Amistad Revolt and the ensuing campaign to free the Africans jailed for murder and piracy. Amistad was a Spanish ship sailing to Cuba with 53 captive Africans aboard who captured the ship and demanded to be returned to their country. Instead of being returned to their home, the Africans were taken prisoner and jailed. The incident effected the U.S. Supreme Court’s first civil rights case, U.S. v. The Schooner Amistad, which resulted in the freedom of the captive Mendi and their eventual return to their homeland. Check out The Amistad Revolt from the law library.