In 1839, the slave ship Amistad set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) leads the slaves in an unprecedented uprising. They are then held prisoner in Connecticut, and their release becomes the subject of heated debate. Freed slave Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) wants Cinque and the others exonerated and recruits property lawyer Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey) to help his case. Eventually, John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) also becomes an ally.