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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Historical Spotlight: John Quincy Adams and The Amistad

Growing up in Connecticut I was exposed to the requisite amount of history class time spent learning about the Amistad.  For those of you that don't know, the Amistad was a slave ship that was overtaken by the Africans on-board and eventually came to be docked in New Haven, Connecticut.  From there a trial occurred to determine whether these Africans were free or if they should be returned to Spain or slavery.

One of the requisites of my 8th grade history class was to watch the movie version of Amistad - it had come out only a year or so before.  I remember the movie being powerful and moving, however I need to see it again to refresh my memory.  To that effect, I didn't remember that John Quincy Adams was involved in the Amistad trial until I read it in Paul C. Nagel's John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life.

John Q. Adams was the principal attorney for the Africans and defended their right to be free and not returned to Spain.  He made a speech that was approximately 8 hours long before he finally closed their argument.  His arguments ultimately won them their freedom.

Did you know that he never changed anyone for his legal fees?

I wanted to share some awesome references that I found in relation to JQA and this historic case:

Here is JQA's 8 hour speech-

Here are visuals of a letter written by JQA requesting the papers in relation to the lower court proceedings for this case which came prior to the Supreme Court - Pg 1 and Pg 2 -

And finally, here is a video clip from the Amistad movie representing JQA's 8 hour speech as performed by Anthony Hopkins:

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. He is one of prides of where I live, Quincy, MA.

    1. I now live relatively nearby - at least within the state - and certainly plan on dropping by the homestead this spring!

  2. 8 hours...my goodness. I had no idea. Never saw Amistad, but apparently I need to rectify that. Thanks Heather.

    1. I know! I can't believe someone could speak so passionately for 8 hours! I still need to finish rewatching the movie - I started about 3 weeks ago and am like 30 minutes in but haven't had any time!

  3. It is good to know that educational institutions are showcasing films as part of their curriculum. I think that is one way to teach and show students the historical events that transpired before their time. I also watched Amistad on one of my history classes. I watched the film all throughout and learned some important facts about history, slavery and freedom.[Wally Howe]

    1. I think that movies are an effective way of communicating with students today since they are so used to watching Youtube clips etc.


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