Director Stephen Spielberg deserves credit for bringing to public attention what historians used to refer to dismissively as the Amistad incident. It is the story of a group of Africans who were captured in Mendi (present day Sierra Leone) and brought in chains to the Americas - and who revolted, captured their ship, La Amistad, and eventually were seized off the coast of New England. The captives won their freedom in a case before the United States Supreme Court and ultimately sailed back to their homeland in Africa. Unfortunately, Spielberg’s movie Amistad not only distorts the historical record – arguably inevitability in a Hollywood feature – but also misses much of the story’s drama and significance. Fortunately the documents are available to tell a story that is not only truer but also more dramatic and meaningful.
By Jeremy Brecher
1. Read the reviews of the film and then write your own review in which you attempt to balance both negative and positive aspects of the film. This assignment should allow you to look at Hollywood creations skeptically. Unfortunately, most Americans learn their history through dramatized films that often misconstrue actual events purposely. Here is your chance to set the record straight in the case of the Amistad!
The following sites will be helpful
“What you didn’t see at the movies”
http://www.pesci.com/movie/index.html – I am not validating all points made by the author in this site, but he/she does raise some issues that you may want to investigate to compliment you review!
2. Write an article for an 1841 newspaper describing the decision of the Supreme Court in the Amistad case. Create a newspaper title, accurate side stories, and be sure to keep the facts of the case as precise as possible. This assignment will require you to do a little outside research. Even though you are to report on the Amistad case, in Editorial fashion, please use your personal opinion to express the sentiments of the case to your audience. Location, date, and language should all be era appropriate.
The following sites will be helpful –
3. Cinque becomes the hero of the Amistad story. However he was not the only captured African to live to tell the tale of this historical journey. Your task will be to create a journal as if you were on this historic voyage. This will be a first person account of the events however it should remain historically accurate. Keep all dates in accordance with the events that transpired. You should include the names of other Africans that would have been on this trip as well as a factual one for yourself. Feel free to be creative with your emotions and reactions, but remember not to change history. You may want to use the previously mentioned sites for assistance.
YOU MUST CITE ANY REFERENCES THAT YOU USE IN OBTAINING YOUR INFORMATION!!!
Created by A. Gallo – October 2002