The Amistad Case
Video Summary: In this lesson, Gary Fisher's students re-enact the Amistad trial, addressing the issues of slavery, property rights, rebellion, morality, justice, and the law. Amistad is one of several cases students in Mr. Fisher's class have studied to understand a larger issue: how the Supreme Court has influenced the lives of African Americans past and present.
Students learn the background of the Amistad incident, from the seizure of the Spanish slave ship by its African passengers, to the interception of the commandeered vessel by a U.S. warship off the coast of Long Island, to the subsequent trial of the Africans on charges of mutiny and murder. During the lesson, Mr. Fisher's teaching partner speaks to the class in Spanish. Some students understand, but others experience firsthand the language barrier Africans on the Amistad encountered with each other and with their captors. Teams for the plaintiffs, defendants, and judges prepare for the mock trial, conduct the trial, and reach a verdict about the fate of the Amistad Africans. From this exercise, students learn how the Supreme Court helps shape American history.