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Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup

Book Overview: 

The book that inspired the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture. Twelve Years a Slave is the memoir of a freeborn African American from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. After being held for twelve years on a Louisiana plantation, he is eventually freed and reunited with his family.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .He aroused the children from their slumbers with a rough shake, and said they were d-d sleepy, it appeared. Going out into the yard, he called Clem Ray, ordering him to leave the loft and come into the cell, and bring his blanket with him. When Clem appeared, he placed us side by side, and fastened us together with hand-cuffs—my left hand to his right. John Williams had been taken out a day or two before, his master having redeemed him, greatly to his delight. Clem and I were ordered to march, Eliza and the children following, We were conducted into the yard, from thence into the covered passage, and up a flight of steps through a side door into the upper room, where I had heard the walking to and fro. Its furniture was a stove, a few old chairs, and a long table, covered with papers. It was a white-washed room, without any carpet on the floor, and seemed a sort of office. By one of the windows, I remember, hung a rusty sword, which attracted my attention. Burc. . . Read More

Community Reviews

“My sufferings I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!”

This book is told from the view point of a man who was a slave, not some historian’s interpretation of the events or a novelist’s aggrandisement. It is a frank narrative of the events that surrounded one man’s persecut...more

“Now had I approached within the shadow of the cloud, into the thick darkness whereof I was soon to disappear, thenceforward to be hidden from the eyes of all my kindred, and shut out from the sweet light of liberty for many a weary year.”

I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea that this was a true...more

I know it's a genuine slave narrative, but it is just one-note. It concentrates on episode after episode of intense and repeated physical abuse. I don't doubt its veracity but there are far more nuanced - and readable - narratives out there.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is about life as...more

I cannot fathom this book. Everything that happens in this autobiography is so distant from anything that I have experienced that I cannot even conceive of the injustice in any sort of measurable or reasonable amount. I feel angry and heartbroken that this sort of crime ever took place in our cou...more

There's a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet ... it may be sooner or it may be later, but it's a coming as sure as the Lord is just.

-Solomon Northup, 1855

I am a middle-age American white guy obsessed with my country's shame...more

cotton

After reading this book, I will never see cotton under the same way ever again.

When we think of cotton, we see something we consider fluffy, comfortable, and cosy, but for thousands of people, cotton and more precisely cotton fields were hell on earth.
A lot of people were unlucky to be...more

Um Herói da Vida Real

Existem múltiplas e variadas ficções sobre a escravatura nos USA. Porém, histórias verdadeiras, narradas por alguém que as sofreu e viveu, não conheço outra além desta!

Solomon Northup nasceu e viveu livre no Norte dos USA.
Um dia foi emboscado, raptado e vendido como escravo...more

I appreciated this excellent book (some of its scenes still haunt me), but compared to other non-fiction slave narratives such as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, there was a bit more distance of perspective here. The facts are still searing; the antidotes still filled me with horror. But s...more

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