Amistad Africans Court Case Timelines: The Catto Years

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the case of the slave ship Amistad that the Africans, who wrested control of ship, had been bound into slavery illegally and violated the 1808 ban on the slave trade. John Quincy Adams was the attorney for the Africans. The case became a symbol for abolishing slavery in America. Prominent blacks, including James Forten and Robert Purvis, provided financial support for the Africans’ defense. Purvis was instrumental in commissioning a portrait by Nathaniel Jocelyn of Joseph Cinque, which was broadly reproduced to raise money for the defense.  The original portrait hung in Purvis’ home. Because of the release of the Africans, Martin Van Buren lost his re-election campaign, and tensions over slavery increased between the North and the South.