There are many movies, which portray traumatic experience of Black people in the USA. Nevertheless, the movie Amistad managed successfully to describe one of the most significant revolts in the African American history. Racial element was always critical for the existence of the legal but at the same time extremely cruel institution of slavery in America. Even some historians estimate that at least ten million captive Africans were brought to Americas (Turner-Sadler, 2009). Although the movie Amistad described historical events in 1830s, the struggle of African Americans for better economic conditions still continued when the film was shot in the 1997.
Amistad is a drama, which portrays true story of African slaves, which were sent to America in 1830s. A well known director Steven Spielberg managed to depict a serious pain of Africans, who were transmitted to the new land on historical ship, named La Amistad. With the help of such talented actors as Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins, the film became well known and was even nominated for Oscar. This movie describes a story of African slaves, who were granted with freedom and the ability to go back home, after the long struggle for freedom in the court as well, as on the ship.
It is also interesting to mention that many actors in the movie Amistad were West Africans themselves. That is why Spielberg told them that it would be very good to bring their own experiences into the story (Davis, 2000). Nevertheless, the actors’ response was quite unexpected and very important. Djumon Hounsou in particular said that there was no experience in his life that he could draw on, to play this part and that his life does not come anywhere close to the pain that they suffered on the Amistad (Davis, 2000). His words are presenting an important question about the difference in living conditions of African Americans in both 1990s and 1830s eras.
First of all, it is important to analyze diverse political and economic issues which influenced Africans in 1830s. During the beginning of the nineteenth century, many Africans were captivated from diverse parts of West Africa in order to be taken to the newly discovered America. It is important to notice that these Africans had many different skills and came from all levels of African society (Turner-Sadler, 2009). Nevertheless, they were all put in the same condition and taken to the ships. That is why many Africans were smart enough to find different ways of escaping and rebelling against their enslavement. This battle with the regime is accurately depicted in the movie Amistad. For example, one of the main heroes Cinque does not only initiate rebellion on the ship, but continues fighting for the freedom upon coming to America.
Moreover, it is necessary to stress that major political figures were not against the slavery. For example, John Quincy Adams, a member of the House of Representatives and former president argued the case and presented information that accused President Van Buren of falsifying document (Turner-Sadler, 2009). Therefore, even the son of the founding father of one of the most significant documents on freedom and liberation, which is the Declaration of Independence, was against the independence of Africans. It means that in 1830s African slaves did not have any chance for political support.
Nevertheless, Africans had a chance to defend their basic rights through the legal procedures in the court. This was also clearly described in the movie Amistad. As the result of revolt, the Africans who had not died on board of Amistad were arrested and taken to New London, Connecticut (Turner-Sadler, 2009). This is where they started fighting for their right for freedom. After careful examination of the case, even John Adams changed his opinion and defended Africans in the court, comparing them to Americans who were fighting for their independence from Britain. In the long run, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court and the Africans were freed (Turner-Sadler, 2009).
The story of Amistad rebellion serves as an inspiration for many African Americans. For instance, after this rebellion enslaved Africans had been still fighting the system of enslavement for a long time. They were running away from their owners, and, escaped from enslaved territories. The Underground Railroad is one of the most popular systems, which helped African Americans to escape. These escaping slaves were secretly guided as they made their way along a trail of safe houses from the southern states up through the North and eventually to Canada (Turner-Sadler, 2009).
During a long period of time, African Americans were always fighting for their rights. While they were fighting for independence during the 1830s, in 1990s they were still trying to acquire their political and economic rights. By the time of 1990s, African Americans were rarely represented in the US government, which means that they did not have enough of political representation. Before Barack Obama appeared on political arena, there were no strong African American political leaders, who could promote their economic interest.
It is also important to mention that, at that time, African Americans were in need of some economical transformations. For example in 1990s some scholars mentioned that in particular in the South, Black people have traditionally occupied the lowest rung on the socioeconomic ladder and southerners in general have suffered from poverty more so than persons in other regions (Coucher, 2009). Therefore, the legacy of slavery seriously impacted the life of many African Americans. In addition, although many things have changed since the slavery was abolished, some racial attitudes are still preserved.
For example, some analysts argued that white southerners’ massive shift from Democratic to the Republican Party in 1990s was due primarily to race since blacks were joining the Democratic Party in large numbers (Croucher, 2009). In fact, the competition between Democratic and Republican parties was always based on diverse social policies, which are usually related to minority groups such as African Americans. For instance, while Democrats are into development of social welfare policies for African Americans, Republicans suggest on investing more resources into military. However, in 1990s Democratic Party under the leadership of Bill Clinton was promoting new welfare reforms, which created tensions with Conservative opposition.
If we look closely at the policies and problems of African Americans, they are usually related to jobs, including the salient issues of affirmative action, inequities in public education, and cultural diversity programs (Croucher, 2009). Despite the abolition of slavery as well, as the end of segregation, there are still some discriminatory issues in regards to African Americans. In fact, there was always a lot of discrimination of African Americans when seeking some prestigious jobs.
For instance, in the 1990s a number of highly visible corporations, each, with thousands of employees, were successfully sued for racial and gender discrimination in employment, training, promotion, tenure, layoff policies and work environment (Croucher, 2009). This is an important indicator of unfavorable economic condition, high unemployment as well as the poverty rate among Black Americans. As a matter of fact, in that time African Americans should have received a chance for political representation, which would let them improve their condition.
Nevertheless, the movie Amistad described historical events in 1830s the struggle of African Americans for better economic conditions continued even when the movie was shot in the 1997. Of course, there is a difference in living conditions of African Americans in both 1990s and 1830s eras. Amistad portrays only one part of enslavement, which is their trip from home, rebellion and fight for freedom. Nevertheless, at that time Africans suffered from humiliating conditions of slavery and rejection of political rights. While African Americans were fighting for independence during the 1830s, in 1990s they were trying to protect their political and economic rights. For example, there was always a lot of discrimination of African Americans when seeking some prestigious jobs. That is why in 1990s, as well as nowadays African Americans deserve a chance for political representation, which can let them improve their economic condition.