Category Archives: Colonization

Why We Didn’t Do the _Amistad_ clip in class this year

In the past, we have tried to find the best way to get across the centuries of horror of the Transatlantic slave trade.  We have often split the study by looking at the numbers and demography as well as the appeal to emotion.

In previous years, we have used a clip from Steven Speilberg’s Amistad that compiles into a painful few minutes, some of the egregious moments of the slave trade:

Steven Speilberg is probably the greatest contemporary purveyor of sentimentalism — the philosophical and aesthetic movement most attuned to the work of abolition.  While we do want our students to feel the horrors of slavery, we have also been concerned that the film (dealing with a real case that is an outlier to the centuries of middle passage that came before) sensationalizes and trivializes the horrors of the middle passage.

We do want to make this available to students, but we will not be doing it in class this year. Please feel free to sound off in the comments if you think we should bring it back as part of the examination of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.