Directed by Steven Spielberg, Amistad takes place from 1839 to 1841. The appearance of the Amistad on US shores in 1839 was significant, because the Africans had been transported illegally across the Atlantic Ocean on a slave vessel called the Tecora. Two Spanish sugar plantation owners, Don Jose Ruiz and Don Pedro Montez, purchased the Africans in Cuba. On their way to another plantation in Cuba, the slaves revolted. The Africans sailed the boat east by day, yet by night the two Spaniards navigated it back to Cuba. After two-months, the ship landed in Connecticut and was brought to Long Island by a US marine ship. The slaves were taken into custody and charged with piracy and murder. With the aid of a freed slave, Joadson, lawyer Roger Baldwin, former president John Quincy Adams, and Cinque, the slaves are unchained and shipped back to Africa. .
Amistad provides a cruel look into the African slave trade and the treatment of blacks. The opening scenes depict the way Africans were transported across the Middle Passage. They were shackled and crowded in a room with no restrooms and little food. Countless Africans died along the way or willingly took their lives. When the Africans became prisoners, and were publicly transported to the courtroom, people yelled at and teased them. After Baldwin won the first trial, President Van Buren appealed the case. The outcome lessened his chances of being reelected if potential slaves were freed. Throughout the movie, Spielberg superbly portrays the managing of Africans. .
Although the movie provides a good look into the treatment of Africans, it has a number of flaws. The movie sugarcoats the relationship between the American courts and slavery. The film gives the feeling that the Supreme Court was persuaded by Adams' plea to reject slavery in favor of natural rights of man, therefore taking a step on the path to abolition. Rather than being open to abolitionist's attitudes, the courts were among the chief defenders of slavery.