Joseph Cinquez (or Cinque) was one of a group of Africans from Sierra Leone who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. In July 1839, Cinquez led a revolt on the slave ship Amistad, off Cuba. The slaves took control of the ship and killed the crew, but were soon captured and charged with piracy. Their subsequent trials in New Haven, Connecticut, were causes celebres, pitting abolitionists against President Martin Van Buren’s administration. In March 1841, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision to return Cinquez and his surviving friends to Africa. John Quincy Adams had represented the Africans before the Supreme Court, and they were set free largely as a result of his eloquent pleading.