Project 1: Amistad

The Amistad Case

Approximate Lesson Length: 15-20 hours

Subject Line for Email: yourlastnamepr1Amistad


Upon completion of this lesson the student will be able to:

  • develop map and reading skills
  • improve research skills
  • use analytical skills to assess written documents
  • develop an understanding of how the slave trade impacted the world and its repercussions

Lesson Links

Please click on any of the links below to take you to the specific section of the lesson.
SEC 1 Assignment
SEC 2 Evaluation
SEC 3 Labeling
Lesson Review


Project One is an intriguing look at slavery, and in particular, the Amistad Case.

In order to understand what the project is all about, please read the following:


In February, 1839, Portuguese slave hunters abducted a large group of Africans from Sierra Leone and shipped them to Havana, Cuba, a center for the slave trade. 

This abduction violated all of the treaties then in existence. 

Fifty-three Africans were purchased by two Spanish planters and put aboard the Cuban schooner Amistad for shipment to a Caribbean plantation. 

On July 1, 1839, the Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the planters to sail to Africa. 

On August 24, 1839, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, by the U.S. brig Washington.

The planters were freed and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven, Connecticut, on charges of murder.

Although the murder charges were dismissed, the Africans continued to be held in confinement as the focus of the case turned to salvage claims and property rights. 

President Van Buren was in favor of extraditing the Africans to Cuba. 

However, abolitionists in the North opposed extradition and raised money to defend the Africans.

Claims to the Africans by the planters, the government of Spain, and the captain of the brig led the case to trial in the Federal District Court in Connecticut. 

The court ruled that the case fell within Federal jurisdiction and that the claims to the Africans as property were not legitimate because they were illegally held as slaves. 

The case went to the Supreme Court in January 1841, and former President John Quincy Adams argued the defendants' case. Adams defended the right of the accused to fight to regain their freedom. 

The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Africans, and 35 of them were returned to their homeland. 

The others died at sea or in prison while awaiting trial.

Amistad Chronology

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DIRECTIONS: Start by saving the Planning Template from the course home page. Click on the tab at the top that contains your course outline, introductory lesson and planning template. Then, read through the project directions, and complete your plan to submit BEFORE continuing on your project.USE THE CHECKLIST in the link below TO BE SURE YOU HAVE COMPLETED EVERYTHING. Print or save it, and tick assignments off as you complete them. Put the time you spent on each part for your time log later.


You will choose two documents relating to the Amistad case to analyze using the links to the documents provided below in the 'how section' and the:

Document Analysis Worksheet included in this lesson

or use this alternative Document Analysis Worksheet (US Archive)

You will need to save/copy the Worksheet to use twice.

1. There are several documents relating to the Amistad case at the following web sites.  

In the first site, click on Reference Documents, and for the second and third site click on Teaching with Documents.

The Gilder Lehrman Center reference

NARA/ Digital Classroom Documents
NARA/ Digital Classroom Lesson Plans

(you may want to bookmark these sites)

NARA/ Digital Classroom - tips on how to conduct research

An interesting picture reference

2. You can choose any two of the following exercises to do next:

*Write an article for an 1841 newspaper describing the decision of the Supreme Court in the Amistad case. 

Be sure to research the provisions of the Congressional Act of March 19, 1819 for background information. 

Make sure that your article is well-researched, documented and factual. 

This article must be at least 2-3 pages in length

*Rent the movie Amistad from the video store (it's a good one). 

Compare the movie version to the actual events as described in the documents in a well-written essay of a minimum of three pages. You must use your own thoughts and observations rather than taking information from the Net.

*Prepare a slide show on slavery in the U.S. and the Amistad Case in particular. 

The slide show must include text and graphics in PowerPoint, and contain a minimum of 10 slides. 

Use the Photo Analysis Worksheet to record the photos you use

Use the Cartoon Analysis Worksheet to record the cartoons you use

Use the Poster Analysis Worksheet to record the posters you use

Use the Map Analysis Worksheet to record the Maps you use

Use the Artifacts Analysis Worksheet to record the Artifacts you use

Use the Sounds Analysis Worksheet to record the Sounds you use

Use the Movie Analysis Worksheet to record the Movies you use

If you need instructions on using PowerPoint, go to Resources on your homepage.

3. Research one other significant incident related to slavery prior to the Civil War. 

This might be:

-Nat Turner's rebellion (1831)
-the Creole Revolt (1841)
-the Dred Scott decision (1857)

Structure your research information as an interview between two or more characters (such as a reporter and Nat Turner).  

Be sure to answer the three questions below somewhere in your interview.  (approximately 2-3 pages)

To what extent did these incidents involve violence?
What were their outcomes?
How did they influence sectional differences?

4. Using the Internet, find maps of the countries involved in the Amistad case. 

Save them to a graphics file on your hard drive, then insert them into your project, along with any other graphics you choose that are relevant. 

Be sure to indicate why the graphics you chose were significant. 

Make sure with all graphics, maps, cartoons, etc. used in these assignments you fill out the appropriate form to provide the source information (links above)

Check with me if you need help with it.

You will include these elements in your project, plus a table showing the hours you spent, and what you spent time on. 

You will also provide a bibliography of all web sites, books, etc. you used in this project.


The U.S., as well as many European countries, participated in the slave trade. 

Sadly, many in these countries believed that it was perfectly fine to kidnap people, ship them to other countries with or without their families, and sell them into slavery. 

Fortunately, there were others who disagreed with this barbaric practice and went to great lengths to lessen the slaves' misery, and eventually free all slaves.


This assignment is mostly research and writing via the computer, but you may choose in your final presentation to supplement this with graphics, charts, posters, video clips, etc. which would include materials other that just computer work.

This is optional and I should be appraised of your presentation strategies so I may be able to assist you with material suggestions or other.


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This assignment will be assessed a percentage out of 100%.



  This assignment will take you 15-20 hours to complete. 

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Send in Your Assignment:

Post your project in the drop box in Moodle, email to me as an attachment, or scan to email, or drop it off at the office if you did things in hard copy.

  Please label the subject header that you attach to your document or picture as follows:

          Your last name + Pr.1Amistad

  It is very important that you take the time and effort to complete this aspect of the assignment EXTREMELY CAREFULLY :)   Thank you!

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Upon concluding this project you will have a comprehensive knowledge of the Amistad Case and its importance to North American History.



© Rocky View Learning Connection

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