Are you a true fan of the movie Amistad?


By: J. Reinoehl

6 Min Quiz

Image: DreamWorks, Home Box Office (HBO)

About This Quiz

Amistad told the true story of kidnapped Africans who revolted against those who would enslave them and eventually fought for their freedom in the courts of the United States. Do you remember Amistad? Find out by taking the quiz below.

How did the first captive escape?

Although Cinque pried a nail from the floor in the movie, in real life, the Africans used a file to break through the chains. La Amistad was a cargo ship, not a typical slave ship. As such, some of the Africans were kept on deck and others in the cargo hold.


Which direction did the Africans want the ship to go after capturing it?

"That one wants us to sail them back. That one thinks he can sail all the way back without us… Yes. East. To the sun."


What were the Africans doing when the American ship captured them?

In the movie and in history, the Africans were getting water when the American ship captured La Amistad. The producer, Debbie Allen (born January 16, 1950), spent 13 years looking for a good director for the project and decided on Spielberg after seeing Schindler's List.


The Queen of which country was involved?

"Your Honor, I am here on behalf of the President of the United States, representing the claims of Her Majesty, Queen Isabella of Spain, as concerns our mutual treaty on the high seas of 1795… These slaves, Your Honor, are by rights the property of Spain, and as such, under Article 9 of said treaty are to be returned posthaste."


In which American town were the Africans first imprisoned?

Under salvage laws at the time, the American ship had salvage rights, and it is probably for that reason it was towed from New York's Long Island to New Haven, Connecticut. In Connecticut, anti-slave laws were not on the books and the Africans could be counted as part of the loot.


Of whom did the Africans say Mr. Baldwin, their lawyer, reminded them?

"He reminds me of the Fula of Baoma, you know, the one who hires himself out to scrape elephant dug from the crop rows. A dung-scraper might be just the kind of man we need right now."


Who was President during this time?

Martin Van Buren (1782—1862) was president during the Amistad trial, and appealed the case. However, he had done poorly during an economic depression, and many were dissatisfied with his presidency prior to the case.


What did Mr. Baldwin find on the ship that allowed him to create a stronger case?

"Look, this is part of the cargo manifest of a Portuguese vessel, the notorious transatlantic slave ship, the Tecora… and I can bring you as many witnesses as you wish, Mr. Holabird, to corroborate this."


What did Mr. Joadson find on the floor of the Amistad that he put in his pocket?

Joadson found a lion's tooth on the floor of the Amistad cargo bay. Spielberg (born December 18, 1946) had produced one other movie based on slavery, The Color Purple, but that movie received mixed reviews because of his stereotypical portrayal of male slaves.


What did the Presidential administration do when the jury and judge looked as if it would side with the Africans?

"Yes, the jury appears disposed towards freeing them, but juries can be dismissed… But I believe we must go further and remove the judge."


What language did the Africans speak?

Mende is one of three languages spoken in Sierra Leone. Only African actors from West Africa were used to play the captured Africans.


What religious beliefs did Judge Coglin have?

"He's young, which means he has a career before him rather than behind, which means he has yet to feel the hankering for magnanimous last gestures for the sake of posterity, and he is monumentally insecure, particularly about his Catholic heritage."


Why do the other Africans say Cinque has the right to speak for them?

Djimon Hounsou (born April 24, 1964) played Joseph Cinque (whose African name was Sengbe Pieh). The other Africans pointed to him as their leader in the movie because he had killed a lion and saved the village, as well as freed them from their slave chains.


How did Cinque kill the lion?

"I picked up this big rock, and I threw it. And by some miracle, you see, I hit it."


What hobby was Adams frequently shown doing?

In the movie, he frequently tended plants in a greenhouse. John Quincy Adams (1767—1848) was a noted diarist and kept a diary from the time he was 12 until just prior to his death.


How many people were thrown overboard on the Tecora?

"[You should check] the inventory. If you look, there's a notation on May 10 correcting the number of slaves on board, reducing their number by 50."


What book does one of the Africans begin to understand and explain to Cinque in prison?

The African saw the pictures in the Bible as a prophetic depiction of what would happen to them. In real life, an Amistad Committee was formed from abolitionists, who cared for the Africans in prison, taught them English and Christianity, and raised the money to send them back to Africa with missionaries.


What reason did the British officer give for the crew of the Tecoma throwing a large number of slaves into the sea based on the testimony of Cinque?

"Well, if you look at it in conjunction with Cinque's testimony, I would say that it means this: The Tecora crew, having greatly underestimated the amount of provisions required for their journey, solved the problem by throwing fifty people overboard."


Anthony Hopkins played which character?

Anthony Hopkins (born December 31, 1937) played John Quincy Adams in the movie. He is also noted for his work in The Silence of the Lambs (and received an Oscar for his performance in it), Bram Stoker's Dracula, and The Elephant Man.


What did the hand-picked lower judge rule in the case?

"As such, her Catholic Majesty's claims of ownership have no merit neither, of course, do those of salvage made by Lieutenants Mead and Gedney. I, hereby, order the immediate arrest and detention of Senors Ruiz and Montes… by federal marshals on the charge of slave trading; the release of the Africans and their conveyance by this government at her earliest convenience and expense back to their homes in Africa!


Which Senator arrived late for the dinner at the White House?

In college, Calhoun (1782—1850) was accused of being a sophist because he would eloquently defend unsound ideas. He disliked Adams when he served as Vice-President under him and stirred up problems in Washington for his successor, President Andrew Jackson, as well (Presidents and Vice-Presidents were elected separately at the time and could be elected without regard to the popular vote). Calhoun and his wife were pro-slavery and saw it as "positive good" for society.


What does Cinque chant that interrupts the trial?

"Give us—us free. Give us free."


How did Van Buren's administration respond to the verdict?

"Our President, our big, big man, has appealed the decision to our Supreme Court… We have to try the case again."


How many Supreme Court Justices were in the movie?

Although the Constitution called for six Justices, Congress set the number at nine shortly after it formed. The only other time in history when this number could have changed was during Roosevelt's reign when he was upset by the Supreme Court's decisions and proposed a bill that would have allowed him to appoint six more members for a total of fifteen. This bill failed, though, and was highly unpopular.


Who did Mr. Baldwin ask to help them try the case before the Supreme Court?

"To His Excellency, John Quincy Adams, Massachusetts member, House of Representatives, I have understood from Mr. Joadson that you are acquainted with the plight of the Amistad Africans. Sir, we need you."


Finish the quote "The only thing John Quincy Adams will be remembered for is ______________________."

"The only thing John Quincy Adams will be remembered for is his middle name."


What was the name of Van Buren's Secretary of State?

John Forsythe served as Governor of Georgia before Andrew Jackson appointed him as Secretary of State. Van Buren kept him in this position throughout his presidency.


What plant was Cinque attracted to at Adams' house?

"This came all the way from Washington, D. C., but don't tell anyone: African violet. I can't tell you how difficult that was to come by."


Which actor played Mr. Joadson?

Spielberg gave the script to Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937) first, hoping he would play the translator, James Covey. However, Morgan felt the role of Mr. Joadson was a better fit and Spielberg agreed.


What did Cinque tell Adams he thought would happen at the Supreme Court?

"It is the place where they finally kill us." "No—yes, that may be true, too."


Why did the Supreme Court Justices say the Treaty with Spain did not apply?

The Supreme Court ruled that the property treaty could not apply because the Africans were not property. Throughout the movie, the Africans were bound in real chains so they would better be able to portray their characters.


What happened to Mr. Baldwin's law practice while he defended the Africans?

"Because as it happens, since my practice has completely deteriorated in the past months, you're all I've got… More death threats—some of them signed by my own clients, no less… I am now free to sit here as long as it takes for you to acknowledge me."


What did Cinque give Mr. Joadson after winning the Supreme Court case?

The lion's tooth was given to Mr. Joadson. The Africans in the movie all spoke Mende. An African consultant was brought in to teach them the Mende culture.


What happened to the slave fortress in Africa?

The British freed the slaves and destroyed Lomboko. The slave fortress ruins can still be seen today on Bruce Island in Sierra Leone, but it is in desperate need of aid to preserve it.


Who became the ninth President of the United States?

Harrison was the first president to die in office after serving only 31 days. He was also the last president who had been born when Britain still ruled America.


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