A Review of Helen Kromer’s Amistad: The Slave Uprising Aboard the Spanish Schooner (1997) Essay

A Review of Helen Kromer’s Amistad: The Slave Uprising Aboard the Spanish Schooner (1997)

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1. Topic of the Book

In Amistad: The Slave Uprising Aboard the Spanish Schooner (1997), Helen Kromer focuses on the true story of the 1839 mutiny by the charismatic leader Cinque and 52 other African men and women on board the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad (“Friendship”) off the Cuban coast. Here, Kromer presents the frightening sequence of events that led the mutineers to seek freedom and justice for all people. This book portrays the dignity and agony of the captives who overthrew their captors, embarking on a long journey toward liberty amid a world that denies them justice. The purpose of the book is to call for humanity and freedom, offering a hope to establish a virtuous nation based on the principles of Christian morality. While Amistad is intended to students of history and social sciences, this also caters to readers of all ages who are interested in slavery and chronicles.

2. Thesis

Kromer does not explicitly state the thesis of the book. However, one can glean from Amistad that Kromer is making the voice of the abolitionists heard: that the greatest evil of the age was the enslavement of human beings. Slavery was symbolic of all that was wrong in the United States and living proof of the hypocrisy of a people who could proclaim the unalienable rights of mankind while practicing slavery and racial discrimination. The abolitionists decided that the time had come to rid the nation of slavery. While the book tells one of the most shameful stories of American history, in another sense, it also conceivably illuminates one of the noblest aspects of the American regime – although nations commit atrocities, they have inherited political principles of such a nature that label such heinous injustices as unjust according to those same principles.

3. Materials Used

Kromer utilized such materials as testimonies, newspaper articles, and documents in writing Amistad. Because of the use of authentic documents, as well as illustrations and maps, the author is able to present a lively account of the horrors and intrigues of the slave trade on the northwestern coast of Africa. Kromer’s historical accounts also make interesting the Supreme Court trial, the freedom of the captives, and finally, their journey back to Africa. Overall, the major strength of Kromer’s book is that it is based on historical accounts and written documents, highlighting the objectivity of the story of the 1839 mutiny.

4. Reflection

Kromer’s Amistad offers many insights about slavery, liberty, and humanity. What interests me most in reading this work is the decision of the Supreme Court. For me, the importance of the Amistad case as told in the book lies not so much in the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s decision but in the fact that the blacks, in collaboration with white abolitionists, had won freedom. In that sense, I believe that the case of Amistad made a significant contribution to the fight against slavery. The glory of Kromer’s book is that it tells us that the way out of today’s racial woes lies in recovering, courageously, our ancestor’s vision and the political principles bestowed upon us in the Declaration of Independence. By standing on these principles, we too shall indeed have right and righteousness on our side.


Kromer, H. (1997). The Amistad: The Slave Uprising Aboard the Spanish Schooner. New York: Pilgrim Press.

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