Amistad - Penguin Readers

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the trial of thirty-nine Africans accused of being slaves and ... The book is a novel based on the 1997 ... Africans belong to them: the Queen of Spain, Ruiz and.

Teacher’s notes

PENGUIN READERS Teacher Support Programme

LEVEL 3

Amistad Joyce Annette Barnes

Chapters 3–15 The Africans stand trial for murder – accused of killing the Spanish sailors. Different people insist that the Africans belong to them: the Queen of Spain, Ruiz and Montes and the owners of the American ship that defeated the Amistad. However, one young property lawyer thinks differently from everyone else. He believes that since the Africans were kidnapped, and not born into slavery, it is the kidnappers who are the criminals. Men, he says, must kill for their freedom, if necessary, and therefore the Africans are innocent.

Background and themes

About the authors The screenplay of Amistad was written by David Franzoni, whose previous screenplays included Citizen Cohn and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and Steven Zaillian, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List. Joyce Annette Barnes wrote the novelisation of the screenplay.

Summary Based on real events, Amistad is a fascinating account of the trial of thirty-nine Africans accused of being slaves and murderers in America in 1839. The book is a novel based on the 1997 film, Amistad, which was written by David Franzoni and Steven Zaillian, and directed by Steven Spielberg.

Chapter 1 It is 1839 and a large number of Africans have been kidnapped from their home in Sierra Leone in West Africa. They are bound in chains and transported by ship – under terrible conditions – to Cuba, where they are sold as slaves to two Spaniards named Ruiz and Montes. The Spaniards put the Africans on another ship, the Amistad, which sets sail for America, where the Africans are going to be put to work in the sugar plantations.

Chapter 2 However, before the plan can be carried out, the captives, led by Cinque, break loose from their chains and kill the Spanish sailors. They don’t kill Ruiz and Montes. Instead, they order them to sail the ship back to Africa. The Spaniards don’t listen to them, though – they secretly continue the journey to America until an American ship attacks and defeats the Amistad in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Africans become prisoners again.

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Slavery: Amistad is an emotionally powerful story about the controversial subject of slavery – the ownership of one human being by another. Nowadays, most people are horrified to think that slavery ever existed. However, slavery wasn’t actually abolished in the southern United States until 1865 – less than a hundred and fifty years ago. In fact, there are a few places in the world where slavery exists illegally even today. The history of slavery: Slavery has spread throughout the world since prehistoric times. The civilizations of Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome supported slavery. It continued through the Middle Ages, and the modern-era slave trade – the transporting of Africans to North and South America – began in the sixteenth century under the Portuguese and the Spanish. Other European countries, such as Britain and France, became involved in the slave trade, and it is estimated that between 1650 and 1850, twelve and a half million slaves were forcefully removed from Africa. The abolition of slavery in Britain: In the second half of the eighteenth century, an anti-slavery movement started, and Britain finally abolished the slave trade in 1807. The country went on to abolish slavery itself in 1833, and it even sent anti-slavery ships to guard the coast of Africa. The ships attacked vessels carrying slaves to the Americas. The abolition of slavery in North America: However, in America, the abolition movement moved much more slowly. The northern states abolished slavery in the period from 1787 to 1804, but since the economy of the southern states was based partly on the use of slaves as agricultural workers, people living in the south resisted the abolition movement. However, as time passed, slavery became an issue that could no longer be ignored, resulting in the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) between the Amistad - Teacher’s notes

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Teacher’s notes

PENGUIN READERS Teacher Support Programme

LEVEL 3

Amistad North and the South. The North won the war, and slavery was finally abolished from the newly united country. Freedom: Much of the action in Amistad takes place in a courtroom, and the story represents courtroom drama at its most exciting. The trial focuses on an extremely important issue – the right of a human being to take ownership over his own freedom. The question behind the trial is simple and yet extremely complex – are the Africans murderers? Or are they simply men who were forced to fight for their freedom? It is a difficult question – and its answer splits the country in half. The right to be free: Cinque’s narration of his capture and eventual transportation across the Atlantic Ocean is shocking, brutal and extremely compelling. During the trial, Cinque and the rest of the Africans are nearly awarded their freedom by the judge on two separate occasions, but higher authorities step in both times and replace the judge with someone whom they believe will decide against the Africans. The young property lawyer’s arguments in favour of the Africans are developed with great clarity until finally the point is indisputable – that it is a man’s right to be free. The racial debate: The film Amistad was released to critical acclaim in 1997. It starred leading American and British actors, and a West African fashion model named Djimon Hounsou played the role of Cinque brilliantly. The film attracted tremendous publicity because of its controversial subject matter, reigniting a heated debate – especially in the United States – regarding the position of black Americans within their country’s modern society.

Discussion activities Chapters 1–5, pages 1–14 Before reading 1 Discuss: Ask students to look at the picture on the cover of the book. Do you think that this is a good cover for the book? Why or why not? 2 Research: Ask students to bring information about the Amistad (a nineteenth century Spanish ship) to class. Put a large piece of paper on the wall and then get students to attach their information to the piece of paper to make a wall display. 3 Pair work: Photocopy the pictures throughout the book – make enough copies so that each pair of students has a copy of every picture in the book. Cut off the captions at the bottom of the pages and then give the pictures and the captions to the pairs. Get them to match the pictures with the captions.

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After reading 4 Write: Get students to make two lists – one to summarise what they already knew about slavery before reading Chapters 1 to 5 and one to summarise what they have learnt about it from reading these chapters. 5 Role play: Put students into groups of three and get them to role play a scene from the court case. Student A is Mr Holabird, Student B is Cinque (the student should pretend that Cinque can speak English) and Student C is Judge Judson. Mr Holabird should ask Cinque questions to show Judge Judson that Cinque is a murderer. Cinque should answer Mr Holabird’s questions to show Judge Judson that he isn’t a murderer. Judge Judson should listen to the conversation and then decide if Cinque is a murderer. 6 Discuss: Get students to look at the picture on page 8. How do you think Cinque is feeling? Why do you think this? What do you think he is thinking about? Why do you think this? 7 Artwork: Get students to draw a picture to describe the scene in which Cinque becomes a prisoner for the second time (from the bottom of page 5 to the middle of page 6).

Chapters 6–10, pages 14–24 Before reading 8 Guess: Ask students to predict what will happen to Cinque and the other Africans in Chapters 6 to 10. Will they win the court case and get their freedom back? Will they return to Africa? 9 Discuss: Teach the word justice to students. Then put students into small groups and get them to discuss the following questions: Do you think that everyone should receive justice when they are on trial? Why or why not? Do you think that everyone actually receives justice when they are on trial? Why do you think this? Do you think that everyone received justice when they were on trial in the past? Why do you think this? Do you think that the legal system in the United States is more or less fair than it was in the past? Why do you think this?

After reading 10 Check: Review students’ predictions about what would happen to Cinque and the other Africans in Chapters 6 to 10. Check if their predictions were right or wrong. 11 Role play: Put students into pairs. Student A supports slavery and Student B doesn’t support it. Student A should explain why he or she supports slavery. Student B should listen to Student A’s reasons, and then explain why he or she doesn’t support it.

Amistad - Teacher’s notes  of 3

Teacher’s notes

PENGUIN READERS Teacher Support Programme

LEVEL 3

Amistad 12 Read carefully: Teach the word property to students. Then get them to read Chapter 6 as a class. Each student should stand up and carefully read one sentence out loud until the entire chapter has been read. When they have finished, they should discuss the words property and slave in greater detail. 13 Discuss: Get students to look at the picture on page 18 and discuss the following questions: Why do you think Cinque pulls Mr Baldwin’s hand towards his heart? What do you think Cinque is trying to say to Mr Baldwin? How do you think Cinque is feeling? Why do you think this? How do you think Mr Baldwin is feeling? Why do you think this?

Chapters 11–15, pages 24–38 Before reading 14 Discuss: Point out to students that in Chapter 12 (page 29), Cinque demands, ‘Give us free!’ Write the sentence on the board. Then teach the word freedom to students. Put them into small groups and get them to discuss the following questions: Do you think that everyone in the world has the same freedom as each other? Why do you think this? Do you think that everyone in the world should have the same freedom as each other? Why or why not? Do you think that freedom is important? Why or why not? Do you think that Cinque and the other Africans should have the same freedom as white people living in America? Why or why not? 15 Discuss: Ask students to think about why Chapter 15 is called ‘Africa Calls’. Who do you think Africa calls? Why do you think this? What do you think this means? Do you think that the person / people will answer ‘Africa’s call’?

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After reading 16 Discuss: Get students to work in small groups and discuss the following questions: Did you think that Mr Adams would win the case? Why or why not? Were you surprised by the judges’ decision? Why or why not? Did you think that what Mr Adams said in court was clever? Why or why not? What effect do you think the judges’ decision had on the people of America? 17 Pair work: Put students into pairs and get them to look up the word admire in a dictionary. Students should ask each other which character they admire most in Amistad. They should give reasons for their choice. 18 Research: Ask students to bring information about the abolition of slavery to class. Get them to stand up and present their information to the rest of the class. Put a large piece of paper on the wall and get them to attach their information to the piece of paper to make a wall display.

Vocabulary activities For the Word List and vocabulary activities, go to www.penguinreaders.com.

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