What does Joseph Cinque represent when we talk of African American history?
Joseph Cinque was one of the leaders of the 1839 uprising aboard the slave ship Amistad. En route from Havana to Puerto Principe, Cinque and many others rose up, killing the ship's captain and seizing control of the vessel. They wound up (due to the trickery of some of the white crew that they forced to navigate) in Connecticut, where they were seized. When the owners of the vessel sued to reclaim their slaves, a complex court case ensued, made even more complex by the fact that Spain had outlawed the slave trade (making Cinque's kidnapping illegal). The federal government sought to return the slaves to their owners, but the United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that Cinque and the others must be allowed to return to Africa. The case would provide important symbolic fodder for the growing abolitionist movement. So it is perhaps safe to say that Cinque would represent the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade that brought the ancestors of African-Americans to the New World, and the many ways in which slaves resisted these horrors.