12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

by Solomon Northup

Overview: Twelve Years a Slave, a chronicle of the amazing ordeal of Solomon Northup, a free African American kidnapped in the North and impressed into slavery in Louisiana, is one of the most compelling and detailed slave narratives in existence. “There must have been some misapprehension—some unfortunate mistake,” writes Northup. “It could not be that a free citizen of New York, who had wronged no man, nor violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly.”

As an educated man, torn from freedom and plunged into slavery, he brings into exact clarity the life and labor of slaves in the antebellum American South, the complex economic choices and ironic moral concessions of slaveholding, and the calamitous effect of slavery on the foundations of civilization. Throughout his horrific imprisonment, Solomon Northup resists the urge to laud himself as an exemplary character or focus solely on his own experience, giving contemporary readers a remarkable and complex account of the lives of the slave community as a whole.

A bestseller when it was first published, Twelve Years a Slave remains today a stunning American odyssey.

Judy Stanton (03/13/15): While everyone knows about Negro slavery in this country, few have heard about it from a well written diary of someone who has lived the experience. To add insult to injury, Solomon Northup was a free man living in New York, kidnapped from his home and family, taken South by slave traders to live 12 years as a slave. His portrayal is honest and balanced, he honors the benevolent master or mistress as loquaciously as he does the tyrant. Sadly, there are too many of them. Having read many Holocaust books, I find the treatment of slaves to mirror the experience...taking away personal identity, treating them like animals, limiting their food, having inhumane expectations for their performance. His return to freedom is nothing short of miraculous, restoring faith in the reader that there are people who will go to great lengths to do the right thing. Northup's memory is as exceptional as his spirit. A very good read, highly recommended.
Rating: *****

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