100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

Joseph Cinque

Joseph Cinque

The Thirty “Amistads”

“Cinque and Grabeau shall not Sigh for Africa in Vain”

United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad

40 U.S. (15 Pet.) 518 (1841)

He found a nail lying on the deck of the ship and hid it under his arm. On the night of July 1, 1839, Cinque, later known as Joseph Cinque, used the nail to pick the lock on his chains. He then freed his comrade Grabeau, and together they undid the chains of the other slaves on board—forty-nine men and four children, three of them girls. In the ship the men found knives with two-foot blades, the cane knives used for harvesting sugar. They were perfect weapons for their plan. At four o'clock in the morning the slaves ...

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