LII
[Contents] [Amistad I] [Amistad II] [Forum] [LII]

160 years and two court cases

       The original  1841 U.S. Supreme Court case arose from the events subsequent to revolt of Africans on the Spanish ship Amistad in 1839. Two months after the Africans escaped their chains and killed most of the Spanish, the boat was found off the coast of New York. The Supreme Court considered the question of whether the Africans should be given their freedom in America or sold into slavery. Former U.S. President John Quincy Adams argued before the Supreme Court in favor of giving the Africans their freedom.
       On Friday, December 12th, 1997 Dreamworks  movie, Amistad, directed by Steven Spielberg and  based on an actual 1839 revolt by Africans aboard a Spanish slave ship, opened in major markets nationwide. Four days earlier, a federal court in Los Angeles denied a motion to enjoin the film, pending a trial to determine whether or not characters, scenes, and other aspects of Amistad were illegally copied from the BAarbara Chase-Ribouck's 1988 book Echo of Lions. On Monday, February 9, plaintiff Barbara Chase-Riboud settled with Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks SKG. Chase-Riboud complimented Dreamworks for their film, Amistad and, as part of the settlement, dropped her plagiarism suit against the studio. This site explores the historical and legal issues and characters involved in the two disputes arising out of the Amistad revolt.
 
 

The First Amistad Case: A Struggle for Freedom.
United States v. The Amistad, 1841

The 'Second' Amistad Case: 'Outright Plagiarism' or 'Who Owns History?'
   Chase-Riboud v. Dreamworks, Inc., 1998