The Amistad, also known as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 (1841), was a United States Supreme Court case resulting from the rebellion of Africans on board the Spanish schooner Amistad in 1839. It was an unusual "freedom suit" which involved international issues and parties, as well as United States law.
The rebellion broke out when the schooner, traveling along the coast of Cuba, was taken over by a group of captives who had earlier been kidnapped in Africa and illegally sold into slavery. The Africans were later apprehended on the vessel near Long Island, New York, by the United States Revenue Cutter Service and taken into custody. The ensuing, widely publicized court cases in the United States helped the abolitionist movement.
In 1840, a federal trial court found that the initial transport of the Africans across the Atlantic (which did not involve the Amistad) had been illegal, because the international slave trade had been abolished, and the captives were thus not legally slaves but free. Given that they were illegally confined, the Africans were entitled to take whatever legal measures necessary to secure their freedom, including the use of force. After the US Supreme Court affirmed this finding on March 9, 1841, supporters arranged transportation for the Africans back to Africa in 1842. The case influenced numerous succeeding laws in the United States.