''La Amistad'' is the name of a slave ship traveling from Cuba to the United States in 1839. It is carrying African slaves as its cargo. As the ship is crossing from Cuba to the United States, Joseph Cinqué, a leader of the Africans, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. The mutineers spare the lives of two Spanish navigators to help them sail the ship back to Africa. Instead, the navigators misdirect the Africans and sail north to the east coast of the United States, where the ship is stopped by the American Navy, and the living Africans imprisoned as runaway slaves.