Scene 1: The Africans Revolt
1. Who is Cinque? What is his role on the Amistad?
2. What do we learn about the slave trade from this
3. What do we learn about the people held in captivity
on the ship?
Scene 2: Legal Claims
1. List all the parties, their claims, and the legal basis for their
claims, which are made in this first court scene.
2. Baldwin says: "all of the claims here. . . speak
to the issue of ownership." Is he correct?
Scene 3: "One Task Undone"
1. What do we learn about John Quincy Adams' character from this
2. Discuss Joadson's statement, that in founding America,
the founding fathers left "one task undone, one vital task, [which]
the founding fathers left to their sons, before their thirteen colonies
could precisely be called United States," namely, "crushing slavery."
What does this tell us about Joadson's understanding of the American
Scene 4: "What Are They Worth?"
1. Based on the first lines of this scene, what is Joadson's goal
in this case?
2. Based on the dialogue between Tappan and Baldwin,
what is Tappan's goal?
3. What does Baldwin mean when he says, "Jesus lost"?
4. Why or how does Tappan, as an abolitionist, relate
to Jesus? Why or how might slaves or captured free Africans relate
to Jesus? How do these differ?
5. What is problematic about Baldwin's attitude toward
the case? What is virtuous in it, (especially in contrast to Tappan)?
6. How can both Baldwin and Tappan claim to be talking
about the "heart of the matter"?
Scene 5: "Who They Are"
1. How are Joadson's "misunderstanding" and Adams' "correction"
about the separation of the branches both true?
2. What new characteristics do we learn about Adams
during this meeting, in his home? In particular, what is the significance
of seeing Adams in his home, and especially in his greenhouse?
3. What is Adams advice to Joadson? Why is it important?
Scene 6: Two Brave and Excellent Men
1. What is different about this final appeal to Adams?
2. Why are two "brave and excellent men" necessary
in this case, as opposed to the one necessary in the case of the
3. How does Baldwin signal that this case, and Adams'
involvement in it, is of the utmost importance?
Scene 7: Cinque Wants to Know
1. What do we learn about Cinque in this scene?
2. What do we learn about Covey? Is he merely the
translator? Discuss his role as both a Menda and as a man fluent
in English and familiar with Western ways.
3. Does Adams live up to his own advice to Joadson--to
find out Cinque's story?
4. What does Cinque say about his ancestors?
Scene 8: Who We Are
1. Why does Adams say that this may be the most important case ever
to come before the Court?
2. What does Adams believe to be the strongest arguments
in defense of Cinque?
3. What does Adams learn from Cinque? How does what
he learns apply in the case of America in general, and in the case
of himself, John Quincy Adams, in particular?
Scene 9: The Ruling
1. What is the Court's argument in favor of the Africans? How is
it related to the Declaration of Independence?
2. What is the significance of the final shots of
this scene? What do we learn about the various relationships with
Cinque? What do we learn about the development of each of the characters?
Scene 10: The Return Home
1. What happens to Cinque after the trial? At the end of the movie,
are we supposed to think Cinque is better off free, despite the
disappointments and difficulties he will encounter back home? What
contrast to this situation does Covey present?
1. What do we learn about the principles of the Declaration from
the Amistad case?
2. How are principle and practicality both important
for the abolition of slavery, as demonstrated by the characters
and the outcome of the movie? Which, if either, does the movie show
is the "heart of the matter"?
3. Compare Joadson's, Adams', and Frederick Douglass's
views of America's founding principles and the issue of slavery.