In the summer of 1839, on a stormy night off the coast of Cuba, 53 Africans held captive in the cramped cargo holds of the Spanish slave ship La Amistad break free of their shackles. Led by Cinque, portrayed by Djimon Hounsou whose performance was, in a long line of black actors, overlooked at Oscar time.
The Africans arm themselves, take control of the ship and reclaim their freedom. They have one goal: to go home to Africa. The ship was eventually captured by an American naval ship off the coast of Connecticut and the Africans were charged with murder and piracy, as well as championed by abolitionists Theodore Joadson and Lewis Tappan, and a young real estate attorney named Roger Baldwin.
The case becomes a symbol of a nation divided over the crime of slavery. Pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren, seeking re-election, is willing to sacrifice the Africans to appease the South, as well as Queen Isabella of Spain who maintains that the Africans are “property” of Spain.
Former President John Quincy Adams comes out of retirement to fight the Africans’ cause before the United State Supreme Court with an argument, the delivery of which you will not soon forget.
Anthony Hopkins in a very brief but masterful portrayal of Adams which earned him a best supporting actor Oscar.
AMISTAD is a historical drama that arguably stands among Steven Spielberg’s finest and most important films, all the more important now considering life a time of Trump.
See it, with others, during this 4th of July week. For more information and directions to the Peace Center of Delaware County, visit www.delcopeacecenter.org