"A Review Of Amistad"

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade January 2002

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"Amistad", directed by Steven Spielberg, portrays the horrible events that took place upon the Cuban schooner La Amistad in 1839. "Amistad" isn't simply about the abduction and selling of people during slavery times; it is about how dehumanizing the whole process is. Joseph Cinque, played by Djimon Hounsou, is a father and husband, living in Sierra Leone in West Africa. Cinque did not even come from primitive or simplistic origins. Sierra Leone was the bed of Mende culture, which was based on agriculture, and had a merit-based, secular political system. Their judicial system even had a set of legal rights for individuals, as the Constitution's Bill of Rights protects our own. Mende was also an expansive culture, one whose cultural, political, and military influence had been slowly spreading out into its surrounding areas. Cinque's people had never experienced subjugation of any sort, so when Cinque and 52 of his people were abducted, they experienced a shock which they carried over even into the Amistad.

The owners of the first ship were Portuguese slavers, but as the movie shows us, it was Cinque's own people who perpetrated the kidnapping. This was often how slavery actually occurred- gifts of firearms, money, alcohol, etc. would be traded by slavers to African leaders in exchange for slaves. Thus, the men who were beating Cinque as he kneeled in a line of other abductees at least had the solace they were making a profit.

The Mende people are then scrubbed down and rubbed with oil, probably used to accentuate their musculature, all to make them more enticing at a slave market, where they are bought by two Spanish planters. La Amistad then sets off for a Caribbean plantation, during which many unspeakable horrors take place, such as the rape of many African women, the...