Twelve Years A Slave

Twelve Years A Slave

Book - 1975
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The story of Solomon Northup is a bizarre and incredible one. Born a free black in New York State in 1808, he was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841, and spent most of the next 12 years as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. His years in this condition of servitude were filled with abuse, apprehension, and a profound fear for his life (he narrowly escaped lynching). Northup's years in captivity are dramatically recounted here, as are his attempts to bring charges against the men who originally abducted him. An educated man when he entered slavery, Northup was able to write about the institution as both an outsider and as one of its victims. The result was an exceptionally detailed and accurate description of slave life and plantation society. A bestseller in its time, the work is "a moving, vital testament to one of slavery's 'many thousand gone' who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation.
Publisher: Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, 1975.
Edition: Louisiana paperback ed.
ISBN: 9780807101506
Branch Call Number: 301.4522 Nor
Characteristics: xxxviii, 273 p. : ill., facsim., map. ; 23 cm.
Additional Contributors: Eakin, Sue L.
Logsdon, Joseph.
Alternative Title: 12 years a slave


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Twelve Years a Slave is the harrowing account of a man's wrongful enslavement and his quest to freedom.

Nov 18, 2012

Solomon, the author, was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was educated and had an amazing memory that enabled him to remember names, places, and descriptions for twelve years. Details that he wrote about are corroborated with official documentation and other evidence. That is significant because it means the book can be used as an historical document.

He was sold a few times, so that enabled him to write about the differences in how slave owners treated their slaves. Slave life wasn't all toiling in the fields and working on the plantations even when working for his most severe owner. There was some free time and some enjoyable times. Different owners gave different amounts of days off for Christmas. Certainly that's nowhere near the same as being able to determine your own working and personal time periods, but maybe their time wasn't quite as dictated as it is generally understood to have been. He also had some skills that plantation owners desired so that gave him some advantages. Of course it was absolutely not fun and games. Some owners whipped their slaves and sometimes even made slaves whip other slaves.

His rescue was close to not happening. I was surprised but it seemed to be that no one was told his slave name, so they got kind of lucky to have found him.

It is a small book - only about 250 pages. He wanted to present the description of slavery in a non-biased way, and he does a very good job of it, but there were times when I wanted more description so I could get a better sense of having to live like that and be able to feel more empathy with him. But it is an incredible recounting of his life during those years, and it is a significant documentary of that period in U.S. history.


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