From School Library Journal
Grade 5 Up. In 1839, a group of slaves being transported from Cuba mutinied, killing the Amistad's captain and seizing the ship. They ordered the remaining crew to take them back to Africa, but were instead captured off the coast of Long Island. Hoping to make a quick profit, the captors sued for custody of the ship and its cargo, but instead became involved in an important legal battle over the slave trade. When the case finally reached the Supreme Court in 1841, the defendants' cause had been adopted and well publicized by abolitionists, who called on John Quincy Adams to aid in the defense. His brilliant and impassionate argument?fueled by his dislike of President Martin Van Buren?compelled the Justices to free the slaves, and the 35 survivors returned to Africa on funds raised by missionaries and abolitionists. It is a compelling story, a fact recognized by Steven Spielberg, who is currently directing a big-screen adaptation of it. However, by trying to place the episode within the context of the abolitionist movement, Zeinert loses the drama in the historical detail. The rebels themselves are treated impersonally; one never gets a sense of the reported charisma of the leader, Cinque. Still, with many books on the topic out of print, libraries may want to add this volume in anticipation of the big demand that the film will surely generate.?Elizabeth M. Reardon, McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 7^-10. One day in 1839, a young West African man named Cinque was ambushed by kidnappers and sold into slavery. Sold again in Cuba, Cinque and 52 other slaves were put aboard the Spanish ship Amistad. What happened next is the dramatic stuff of history: as the ship listed at sea, with slack sails and loose supervision, Cinque plotted a revolt and was able to carry it off after picking his shackles lock with a nail and seizing machetes meant for West Indies sugar plantations. Instead of sailing back to Africa, however, as the rebels ordered the remaining crew to do in exchange for their lives, the Amistad headed toward Long Island, where it was captured by the U.S. Navy, and a major political debate and trial ensued. Zeinert's narrative reads like an exciting adventure tale, while it carefully weaves in facts about West African culture, the slave trade, and American pre^-Civil War politics. Black-and-white illustrations that include scenes from a mural by Hale Wood-ruff add even more drama to this fine title. Source notes; bibliography. Anne O'Malley
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