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Twelve Years a Slave (Illustrated) (Two Pence books)

Twelve Years a Slave (Illustrated) (Two Pence books)

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Twelve Years a Slave (Illustrated) (Two Pence books)

4/5 (439 évaluations)
310 pages
5 heures
Jun 7, 2014


Solomon Northup was born a free man in New York State. At the age of 33 he was kidnapped in Washington D.C. and placed in an underground slave pen. Northup was transported by ship to New Orleans where he was sold into slavery. He spent the next 12 years working as a carpenter, driver, and cotton picker. This narrative reveals how Northup survived the harsh conditions of slavery, including smallpox, lashings, and an attempted hanging. Solomon Northup was among a select few who were freed from slavery. His account describes the daily life of slaves in Louisiana, their diet and living conditions, the relationship between master and slave, and how slave catchers used to recapture runaways. Northup's first person account published in 1853, was a dramatic story in the national debate over slavery that took place in the nine years leading up to the start of the American Civil War
Jun 7, 2014

À propos de l'auteur

SOLOMON NORTHUP was born in 1808 and lived as a free man in Saratoga Springs, New York, with his wife and three children until his capture and enslavement in 1841. He was one of very few who were able to regain their freedom after being kidnapped and sold into slavery. After he returned to New York, he published his memoir and became an active abolitionist, lecturing throughout the Northeast about his experiences.

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Twelve Years a Slave (Illustrated) (Two Pence books) - Solomon Northup


Years a Slave
















whose name,

throughout the world, is identified with the

great reform:

this narrative, affording another

Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,

is respectfully dedicated



List of Illustrations


Editor’s Preface

Narrative of Solomon Northup

1 Introductory – Ancestry – The Northup Family – Birth and Parentage – Mintus Northup – Marriage with Anne Hampton – Good Resolutions – Champlain Canal – Rafting Excursion to Canada – Farming – The Violin – Cooking – Removal to Saratoga – Parker and Perry – Slaves – and Slavery – The Children – The Beginning of Sorrow

2 The two Strangers – The Circus Company – Departure from Saratoga – Ventriloquism and Legerdemain – Journey to New York – Free Papers – Brown and Hamilton – The haste to reach the Circus – Arrival in Washington – Funeral of Harrison – The Sudden Sickness – The Torment of Thirst – The Receding Light – Insensibility – Chains and Darkness

3 Painful Meditations – James H. Burch – Williams’ Slave Pen in Washington – The Lackey, Radburn – Assert my Freedom – The Anger of the Trader – The Paddle and Cat-o’-nine- tails – The Whipping – New Acquaintances – Ray, Williams, and Randall – Arrival of Little Emily and her Mother in the Pen – Maternal Sorrows – The Story of Eliza

4 Eliza’s Sorrows – Preparation to Embark – Driven Through the Streets of Washington – Hail, Columbia – The Tomb of Washington – Clem Ray – The Breakfast on the Steamer – The happy Birds – Aquia Creek – Fredericksburgh – Arrival in Richmond – Goodin and his Slave Pen – Robert, of Cincinnati – David and his Wife – Mary and Lethe – Clem’s Return – His subsequent Escape to Canada – The Brig Orleans – James H. Burch

5 Arrival at Norfolk – Frederick and Maria – Arthur, the Freeman – Appointed Steward – Jim, Cuffee, and Jenny – The Storm – Bahama Banks – The Calm – The Conspiracy – The Long Boat – The Small-Pox – Death of Robert – Manning, the Sailor – The Meeting in the Forecastle – The Letter – Arrival at New-Orleans – Arthur’s Rescue – Theophilus Free- man, the Consignee – Platt – First Night in the New-Orleans Slave Pen

6 Freeman’s Industry – Cleanliness and Clothes – Exercising in the Show Room – The Dance – Bob, the Fiddler – Arrival of Customers – Slaves Examined – The Old Gentleman of New-Orleans – Sale of David, Caroline, and Lethe – Parting of Randall and Eliza – Small-Pox – The Hospital – Recovery and Return to Freeman’s Slave Pen – The Purchaser of Eliza, Harry, and Platt – Eliza’s Agony on Parting from Little Emily

7 The Steamboat Rodolph – Departure from New-Orleans – William Ford – Arrival at Alexandra, on Red River – Resolutions – The Great Pine Woods – Wild Cattle – Martin’s Summer Residence – The Texas Road – Arrival at Master Ford’s – Rose – Mistress Ford – Sally and her Children – John, the Cook – Walter, Sam, and Antony – The Mills on Indian Creek – Sabbath Days – Sam’s Conversion – The Profit of Kindness – Rafting – Adam Taydem, the Little White Man – Cascalla and his Tribe – The Indian Ball – John M. Tibeats – The Storm approaching

8 Ford’s Embarrassments – The Sale to Tibeats – The Chattel Mortgage – Mistress Ford’s Plantation on Bayou Boeuf – Description of the Latter – Ford’s Brother-in-Law, Peter Tanner – Meeting with Eliza – She still Mourns for her Children – Ford’s Overseer, Chapin – Tibeats’ Abuse – The Keg of Nails – The First Fight with Tibeats – His Discomfiture and Castigation – The attempt to Hang me – Chapin’s Interference and Speech – Unhappy Reflections – Abrupt Departure of Tibeats, Cook, and Ramsey – Lawson and the Brown Mule – Message to the Pine Woods

9 The Hot Sun – Yet bound – The Cords sink into my Flesh – Chapin’s Uneasiness – Speculation – Rachel, and her Cup of Water – Suffering increases – The Happiness of Slavery – Arrival of Ford – He cuts the Cords which bind me, and takes the Rope from my Neck – Misery – The gathering of Slaves in Eliza’s Cabin – Their Kindness – Rachel Repeats the Occurrences of the Day – Lawson entertains his Companions with an Account of his Ride – Chapin’s Apprehensions of Tibeats – Hired to Peter Tanner – Peter expounds the Scriptures – Description of the Stocks

10 Return Tibeats – Impossibility of pleasing him – He attacks me with a Hatchet – The Struggle over the Broad Axe – The Temptation to Murder him – Escape across the Plantation – Observations from the Fence – Tibeats approaches, followed by the Hounds – They take my Track – Their loud Yells – They almost overtake me – I reach the Water – The Hounds confused – Moccasin Snakes – Alligators – Night in the Great Pacoudrie. Swamp – The Sounds of Life – North-West Course – Emerge into the Pine Woods – Slave and his Young Master – Arrival At Ford’s – Food and Rest

11 The Mistress’ Garden – The Crimson and Golden Fruit – Orange and Pomegranate Trees – Return to Bayou Boeuf – Master Ford’s Remarks on the way – The Meeting with Tibeats – His Account of the Chase – Ford censures his Brutality – Arrival At the Plantation – Astonishment of the Slaves on seeing me – The anticipated Flogging – Kentucky John Mr. Eldret, the Planter – Eldret’s Sam – Trip to the Big Cane Brake – The Tradition of Sutton’s Field – Forest Trees – Gnats and Mosquitoes – The Arrival of Black Women in the Big Cane – Lumber Women – Sudden Appearance of Tibeats – His Provoking Treatment – Visit to Bayou Boeuf – The Slave Pass – Southern Hospitality – The Last of Eliza – Sale to Edwin Epps

12 Personal Appearance of Epps – Epps, Drunk and Sober – A Glimpse of his History – Cotton Growing – The Mode of Ploughing and Preparing Ground – Of Planting, of Hoeing, of Picking, of Treating Raw Hands – The difference in Cotton Pickers – Patsey a remarkable one – Tasked according to Ability – Beauty of a Cotton Field – The Slave’s Labors – Fear of Approaching the Gin-House – Weighing – Chores – Cabin Life – The Corn Mill – The Uses of the Gourd – Fear of Oversleeping – Fear continually – Mode of Cultivating Corn – Sweet Potatoes – Fertility of the Soil – Fattening Hogs – Preserving Bacon – Raising Cattle – Shooting Matches – Garden Products – Flowers and Verdure

13 The Curious Axe-Helve – Symptoms of Approaching Illness – Continue to decline – The Whip ineffectual – Confined to the Cabin – Visit by Dr. Wines – Art – Partial Recovery – Failure at Cotton Picking – What may be heard on Epps’ Plantation – Lashes Graduated – Epps in a Whipping Mood – Epps in a Dancing Mood – Description of the Dance – Loss of Rest no Excuse – Epps’ Characteristics – Jim Burns – Removal from Huff Power to Bayou Boeuf – Description of Uncle Abram; of Wiley; of Aunt Phebe; of Bob, Henry, and Edward; of Patsey; with a Genealogical Account of each – Something of their Past History, and Peculiar Characteristics – Jealousy and Lust – Patsey, the Victim

14 Destruction of the Cotton Crop in 1845 – Demand for Laborers in St. Mary’s Parish – Sent thither in a Drove – The Order of the March – The Grand Coteau – Hired to Judge Turner on Bayou Salle – Appointed Driver in his Sugar House – Sunday Services – Slave Furniture; how obtained – The Party at Yarney’s, in Centreville – Good Fortune – The Captain of the Steamer – His Refusal to Secrete me – Return to Bayou Boeuf – Sight of Tibeats – Patsey’s Sorrows – Tumult and Contention – Hunting the Coon and Opossum – The Cunning of the latter – The Lean Condition of the Slave – Description of the Fish Trap – The Murder of the Man from Natchez – Epps Challenged by Marshall – The Influence of Slavery – The Love of Freedom

15 Labors on Sugar Plantations – The Mode of Planting Cane – of Hoeing Cane – Cane Ricks – Cutting Cane – Description of the Cane Knife – Winrowing – Preparing for Succeeding Crops – Description of Hawkins’ Sugar Mill on Bayou Boeuf – The Christmas Holidays – The Carnival Season of the Children of Bondage – The Christmas Supper – Red, the Favorite Color – The Violin, and the Consolation it Afforded – The Christmas Dance – Lively, the Coquette – Sam Roberts, and his Rivals – Slave Songs – Southern Life as it is – Three Days in the Year – The System of Marriage – Uncle Abram’s Contempt of Matrimony

16 Overseers – How they are Armed and Accompanied – The Homicide – His Execution At Marksville – Slave Drivers – Appointed Driver on removing to – Bayou Boeuf – Practice makes perfect – Epps’s Attempt to Cut Platt’s Throat – The Escape from him – Protected by the Mistress – Forbids Reading and Writing – Obtain a Sheet of Paper After Nine Years’ Effort – The Letter – Armsby, the Mean White – Partially confide in him – His Treachery – Epps’ Suspicions – How they were quieted – Burning the Letter – Armsby leaves the Bayou – Disappointment and Despair

17 Wiley disregards the counsels of Aunt Phebe and Uncle Abram, and is caught by the Patrollers – The Organization and Duties of the latter – Wiley Runs Away – Speculations in regard to him – His Unexpected Return – His Capture on the Red River, and Confinement in Alexandria Jail – Discovered by Joseph B. Roberts – Subduing Dogs in Anticipation of Escape – The Fugitives in the Great Pine Woods – Captured by Adam Taydem and the Indians – Augustus killed by Dogs – Nelly, Eldret’s Slave Woman – The Story of Celeste – The Concerted Movement – Lew Cheney, the Traitor – The Idea of Insurrection

18 O’Niel, the Tanner – Conversation with Aunt Phebe overheard – Epps in the Tanning Business – Stabbing of Uncle Abram – The Ugly Wound – Epps is Jealous – Patsey is Missing – Her Return from Shaw’s – Harriet, Shaw’s Black Wife – Epps Enraged – Patsey denies his Charges – She is Tied Down Naked to Four Stakes – The Inhuman Flogging – Flaying of Patsey – The Beauty of the Day – The Bucket of Salt Water – The Dress stiff with Blood – Patsey grows Melancholy – Her Idea of God and Eternity – Of Heaven and Freedom – The Effect of Slave-Whipping – Epps’ Oldest Son – The Child is Father to the Man

19 Avery, on Bayou Rouge – Peculiarity of Dwellings – Epps builds a New House – Bass, the Carpenter – His Noble Qualities – His Personal Appearance and Eccentricities – Bass and Epps discuss the Question of Slavery – Epps’ Opinion of Bass – I make myself known to him – Our Conversation – His Surprise – The Midnight Meeting on the Bayou Bank Bass’ Assurances – Declares War against-Slavery – Why I did not Disclose my History – Bass writes Letters – Copy of his Letter to Messrs. Parker and Perry – The Fever of Suspense – Disappointments – Bass endeavors to cheer me – My Faith in him

20 Bass faithful to his word – His Arrival on Christmas Eve – The Difficulty of Obtaining An Interview – The Meeting in the Cabin – Non-arrival of the Letter – Bass announces his Intention to proceed North – Christmas – Conversation between Epps and Bass – Young Mistress McCoy, the Beauty of Bayou Boeuf – The "Ne plus ultra" of Dinners – Music and Dancing – Presence of the Mistress – Her Exceeding Beauty – The Last Slave Dance – William Pierce – Oversleep myself – The Last Whipping – Despondency – Cold Morning – Epps’ Threats – The Passing Carriage – Strangers Approaching through the Cotton-Field – Last Hour on Bayou Boeuf

21 The Letter reaches Saratoga – Is forwarded to Anne – Is laid before Henry B. Northup – The Statute of May 14, 1840 – Its provisions – Anne’s Memorial to the Governor – The affidavits Accompanying it – Senator Soule’s Letter – Departure of the Agent Appointed by the Governor – Arrival at Marksville – The Hon. John P. Waddill – The Conversation on New-York Politics – It suggests a Fortunate Idea – The Meeting with Bass – The Secret out – Legal Proceedings instituted Departure of Northup and the Sheriff from Marksville for Bayou Boeuf – Arrangements on the Way – Reach Epps’ Plantation – Discover his Slaves in the Cotton-Field – The Meeting – The Farewell

22 Arrival in New-Orleans – Glimpse of Freeman – Genois, the Recorder – His Description of Solomon – Reach Charleston Interrupted by Custom House Officers – Pass through Richmond – Arrival in Washington – Burch Arrested – Shekels and Thorn – Their Testimony – Burch acquitted – Arrest of Solomon – Burch withdraws the Complaint – The Higher Tribunal – Departure from Washington – Arrival at Sandy Hill – Old Friends and Familiar Scenes – Proceed to Glens Falls – Meeting with Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth – Solomon Northup Staunton – Incidents, – Conclusion

Roaring River Song



1  Portrait of Solomon in his Plantation Suit

2  Scene in the Slave Pen at Washington

3  Separation of Eliza and her Last Child

4  Chapin Rescues Solomon From Hanging

5  The Staking out and Flogging of the Girl Patsey

6  Scene in the Cotton Field, and Solomon’s Delivery

7  Arrival Home, and First Meeting with his Wife and Children

8  Roaring River Sheet Music


"Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone

To reverence what is ancient, and can plead

A course of long observance for its use,

That even servitude, the worst of ills,

Because delivered down from sire to son,

Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing.

But is it fit or can it bear the shock

Of rational discussion, that a man

Compounded and made up, like other men,

Of elements tumultuous, in whom lust

And folly in as ample measure meet,

As in the bosom of the slave he rules,

Should be a despot absolute, and boast

Himself the only freeman of his land?"




When the editor commenced the preparation of the following narrative, he did not suppose it would reach the size of this volume. In order, however, to present all the facts which have been communicated to him, it has seemed necessary to extend it to its present length.

Many of the statements contained in the following pages are corroborated by abundant evidence – others rest entirely upon Solomon’s assertion. That he has adhered strictly to the truth the editor, at least, who has had an opportunity of detecting any contradiction or discrepancy in his statements, is well satisfied. He has invariably repeated the same story without deviating in the slightest particular, and has also carefully perused the manuscript, dictating an alteration wherever the most trivial inaccuracy has appeared.

It was Solomon’s fortune, during his captivity, to be owned by several masters. The treatment he received while at the Pine Woods shows that among slaveholders there are men of humanity as well of cruelty. Some of them are spoken of with emotions of gratitude – others in a spirit of bitterness. It is believed that the following account of his experience on Bayou Boeuf presents a correct picture of Slavery in all its lights, and shadows, as it now exists in that locality. Unbiased, as he conceives, by any prepossessions or prejudices, the only object of the editor has been to give a faithful history of Solomon Northup’s life, as he received it from his lips.

In the accomplishment of that object, he trusts he has succeeded, notwithstanding the numerous faults of style and of expression it may be found to contain.

David Wilson.

Whitehall, N. Y

., May,




Solomon Northup



Introductory – Ancestry – The Northup Family – Birth and Parentage – Mintus Northup – Marriage with Anne Hampton – Good Resolutions – Champlain Canal – Rafting Excursion to Canada – Farming – The Violin – Cooking – Removal to Saratoga – Parker and Perry – Slaves and Slavery – The Children – The Beginning of Sorrow

Having been born a freeman, and for more than thirty years enjoyed the blessings of liberty in a free State-and having at the end of that time been kidnapped and sold into Slavery, where I remained, until happily rescued in the month of January, 1853, after a bondage of twelve years – it has been suggested that an account of my life and fortunes would not be uninteresting to the public.

Since my return to liberty, I have not failed to perceive the increasing interest throughout the Northern States, in regard to the subject of Slavery. Works of fiction, professing to portray its features in their more pleasing as well as more repugnant aspects, have been circulated to an extent unprecedented, and, as I understand, have created a fruitful topic of comment and discussion.

I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under my own observation – only so far as I have known and experienced it in my own person. My object is, to give a candid and truthful statement of facts: to repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leaving it for others to determine, whether even the pages of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a severer bondage.

As far back as I have been able to ascertain, my ancestors on the paternal side were slaves in Rhode Island. They belonged to a family by the name of Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of New York, settled at Hoosic, in Rensselaer county. He brought with him Mintus Northup, my father. On the death of this gentleman, which must have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been emancipated by a direction in his will.

Henry B. Northup, Esq., of Sandy Hill, a distinguished counselor at law, and the man to whom, under Providence, I am indebted for my present liberty, and my return to the society of my wife and children, is a relative of the family in which my forefathers were thus held to service, and from which they took the name I bear. To this fact may be attributed the persevering interest he has taken in my behalf.

Sometime after my father’s liberation, he removed to the town of Minerva, Essex county, N. Y., where I was born, in the month of July, 1808. How long he remained in the latter place I have not the means of definitely ascertaining. From thence he removed to Granville, Washington county, near a place known as Slyborough, where, for some years, he labored on the farm of Clark Northup, also a relative of his old master; from thence he removed to the Alden farm, at Moss Street, a short distance north of the village of Sandy Hill; and from thence to the farm now owned by Russel Pratt, situated on the road leading from Fort Edward to Argyle, where he continued to reside until his death, which took place on the 22d day of November, 1829. He left a widow and two children – myself, and Joseph, an elder brother. The latter is still living in the county of Oswego, near the city of that name; my mother died during the period of my captivity.

Though born a slave, and laboring under the disadvantages to which my unfortunate race is subjected, my father was a man respected for his industry and integrity, as many now living, who well remember him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking employment in those more menial positions, which seem to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Besides giving us an education surpassing that ordinarily bestowed upon children in our condition, he acquired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient property qualification to entitle him to the right of suffrage. He was accustomed to speak to us of his early life; and although at all times cherishing the warmest emotions of kindness, and even of affection towards the family, in whose house he had been a bondsman, he nevertheless comprehended the system of Slavery, and dwelt with sorrow on the degradation of his race. He endeavored to imbue our minds with sentiments of morality, and to teach us to place our, trust and confidence in Him who regards the humblest as well as the highest of his creatures. How often since that time has the recollection of his paternal counsels occurred to me, while lying in a slave hut in the distant and sickly regions of Louisiana, smarting with the undeserved wounds which an inhuman master had inflicted, and longing only for the grave which had covered him, to shield me also from the lash of the oppressor. In the church yard at Sandy Hill, an humble stone marks the spot where he reposes, after having worthily performed the duties appertaining to the lowly sphere wherein God had appointed him to walk.

Up to this period I had been principally engaged with my father in the labors of the farm. The leisure hours allowed me were generally either employed over my books, or playing on the violin – an amusement which was the ruling passion of my youth. It has also been the source of consolation since, affording, pleasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, from the painful contemplation of my fate.

On Christmas day, 1829, I was married to Anne Hampton, a colored girl then living in the vicinity of our residence. The ceremony was performed at Fort Edward, by Timothy Eddy, Esq., a magistrate of that town, and still a prominent citizen of the place. She had resided a long time at Sandy Hill, with Mr. Baird, proprietor of the Eagle Tavern, and also in the family of Rev. Alexander Proudfit, of Salem. This gentleman for many years had presided over the Presbyterian society at the latter place, and was widely distinguished for his learning and piety. Anne still holds in grateful remembrance the exceeding kindness and the excellent counsels of that good man. She is not able to determine the exact line of her descent, but the blood of three races mingles in her veins. It is difficult to tell whether the red, white, or black predominates. The union of them all, however, in her origin, has given her a singular but pleasing expression, such as is rarely to be seen. Though somewhat resembling, yet she cannot properly be styled a quadroon, a class to which, I have omitted to mention, my mother belonged.

I had just now passed the period of my minority, having reached the age of twenty-one years in the month of July previous. Deprived of the advice and assistance of my father, with a wife dependent upon me for support, I resolved to enter upon a life of industry; and notwithstanding the obstacle of color, and the consciousness of my lowly state, indulged in pleasant dreams of a good time coming, when the possession of some humble habitation, with a few surrounding acres, should reward my labors, and bring me the means of happiness and comfort.

From the time of my marriage to this day the love I have borne my wife has been sincere and unabated; and only those who have felt the glowing tenderness a father cherishes for his offspring, can appreciate my affection for the beloved children which have since been born to us. This much I deem appropriate and necessary to day, in order that those who read these pages, may comprehend the poignancy of those sufferings I have been doomed to bear.

Immediately upon our marriage we commenced house-keeping, in the old yellow building then standing at the southern extremity of Fort Edward village, and which has since been transformed into a modern mansion, and lately occupied by Captain Lathrop. It is known as the Fort House. In this building the courts were sometime held after the organization of the county. It was also occupied by Burgoyne in 1777, being situated

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Ce que les gens pensent de Twelve Years a Slave (Illustrated) (Two Pence books)

439 évaluations / 44 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (4/5)
    A free black man in New York is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, where he remains for a dozen years before he is rescued. It pulls no punches when describing the horrors of slavery, but what really struck me is how hard Northup worked to see the best in everyone. He does put a little more detail into the act of farming cotton and the description of stocks than I found strictly necessary, but his purpose was to educate his contemporaries about the realities of slavery, setting the record straight. He goes to great pains to give evidence that his story is true, and while he does speak about the wrongness of slavery as an institution, he is reasonable rather than preachy. Fascinating story.
  • (5/5)
    This audio book brought Solomon’s voice through Louis Gossett Jr. as he read the book to me in my car. Mr. Gossett Jr. did a fantastic job bringing the emotion through making Solomon very real to me. This book was heart breaking, gut wrenching, and opened my eyes even further to another part of slavery. I have not watched the movie yet as I wanted to read the book first.
    First of all, the concept of slavery just boggles my mind to begin with, it always has. The fact that white people thought they had the right to own another human has always baffled me and even more after listening to this book. It showed that there were a lot of bullies back then as there still are today. The brutal lashings after being stripped down and secured to the ground, the sorrow of children being taken from their mother, I can’t imagine anyone going through it. To be ripped away from what you know and love and then beaten to almost your death, there are no words.
    I still can’t believe slavery was abolished in 1865. That wasn’t very long ago yet the youth of today don’t realize how recently it happened. It chills me to think that just a hundred years before I was born this was going on. This book should be part of the American History curriculum for every High School. I know Solomon will be with me for the rest of my life.
  • (5/5)
    Twelve Years a Slave is one of the better known book-length slave narratives from the 19th century, of which there were about 100 published prior to the Civil War. Northup was an educated free man from New York who was kidnapped and transported to the the infamous Mississippi Delta, sort of the 'eastern front' of slavery in America, where the most brutal of conditions existed. He experienced families broken apart, a diet of corn meal and wild-caught bush meat, no medical care, no furniture or cooking utensils, constant whippings by capricious and sadistic white men (and women), the occasion kindness, runaways and dogs and swamps - all background elements to an amazing story of finding home again.It helped to follow the story on a map, here is the location of Ebbs plantation, no longer in existence but one can use Street View to travel around the fields. With the film soon to be released there will be a lot of deserved interest in the book. I listened to it as Audiobook, the professional voice acting brings it to life, the accented idioms and singing and so on. There are two excellent versions, both narrated by African American actors, one by Louis Gossett, Jr. and the other by Richard Allen. I listened to the Allen version, which I think is now unfairly overshadowed by Gossett, of Roots fame, but both are good in their way.
  • (3/5)
    12 YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon NorthupI never thought I would say this but …. Go see the movie. The story is important but the book is ponderous. The writing is old fashioned enough to make it difficult for the modern reader. I was glad I read this on my e-reader so I could easily look up all the many “archaic” words. The punctuation also forces the reader to slow down and re-read portions to understand what is being said in this autobiography.The book relates the experiences of a free black man who is kidnapped by slavers in Washington, DC and taken to Louisiana where he is sold into slavery. It takes 12 long years for him to be found, released from bondage and returned to wife and children. He suffers under both cruel and mild masters as he shares life with other bound persons. Northup also relates the stories of other persons he suffers with. You will feel Patsey’s pain as she is whipped into submission and suffer with Elisa as her small children are wrenched from her and sold away never to be seen again.This biography needs to be told. Perhaps another writer will make the story come alive for the modern reader.3 of 5 stars
  • (4/5)
    Solomon Northup was born a free man in New York State. At the age of 33 he was kidnapped in Washington D.C. and placed in an underground slave pen. Northup was transported by ship to New Orleans where he was sold into slavery. He spent the next 12 years working as a carpenter, driver, and cotton picker. This narrative reveals how Northup survived the harsh conditions of slavery, including smallpox, lashings, and an attempted hanging. Solomon Northup was among a select few who were freed from slavery.My Thoughts:The description of the book really tells the reader what to expect with this true account of the authors experiences. The story is really harrowing and it is awful what human beings can do to each other.I wouldn’t say that the book is an enjoyable one because of its content and at times it was awful. I especially found the floggings terrible and worse of all was what happened to Patsey. After that event I found that I couldn’t stand anymore so I was skipping towards the end just to see how the author did find his freedom again.A very harrowing tale but at times very compelling but I wouldn’t say it was a nice read. I am glad that I did read this book albeit it hard at times to read the content.
  • (4/5)
    The name Solomon Northup meant nothing to me until I saw the film, Twelve Years a Slave.

    I don’t usually read a written work after seeing a film adaptation, but in this harrowing instance I made an exception.

    Why? Two reasons really. One, because having witnessed a director’s eye view of the story, I wanted to hear the voice of the man who had been kidnapped a free man and sold as a chattel into bondage. Two, Slavery is an age-old human outrage which is as much a vile horror in today’s world as it was during Solomon Northup’s day and across the world for millennia before that.

    Solomon’s account shines as the work of an educated and talented man, whose downfall begins when he trusts the wrong people. Believing he could supplement the household income - during the temporary absence of his family – by accepting a two week job, playing the violin; he is lured by two villains to Washington, where he is drugged. Regaining consciousness he finds himself manacled hand and foot in a dark cellar, and stripped of clothes and possessions.
    On protesting his status as a free man, Northup suffers a near fatal beating by two strangers, and learns that the men he trusted with the promise of work had tricked him and sold him into slavery.

    On leaving the confines of the cellar to be transported, with a small group of unfortunates, to the Southern cotton plantations, the author glimpses the distant outline of the White House, a sad irony not lost to him.

    I didn’t enjoy this book. It was far more detailed than the film, which I also didn’t enjoy. I felt both had an essential message however, and both gave testament that there are no depths below which the human animal will stoop when dealing with his fellow man.

  • (4/5)
    Born a freeman in New York State in 1808, married with three children, Soloman was offered a short term job in Washington, DC to play his violin at a circus. However, he was drugged and shipped to Louisiana as a slave. For 12 years he worked on several plantations on the Red River recording names, places and conditions in his head all the while trying to find some way to communicate his whereabouts to his family and friends in New York.Eventually a Canadian working as a handyman in the area who had shown strong views about the injustice of slavery mailed a letter home for him which resulted in the Governor of New York sending an agent to Louisiana to free him.I had thought that this would be a difficult read because it was written in the 1850`s but I was pleasantly surprised to find Solomon was an excellent writer and his narrative flowed along quickly. As with any book that describes slavery or injustice to fellow humans such as the Holocaust, one wonders at man`s ability to mistreat his fellow human beings. In the case of slavery in the southern USA, it is how white religious men & woman justified it with the Bible that always rankles me.
  • (5/5)
    I expected a book written 160 years ago to have a much more dated style, but this one sounds surprisingly contemporary. The voice of the author, narrating his own experience, is real and natural, opening up a perspective to a horrible part of our history. It is fascinating and believable.
  • (4/5)
    This unforgettable memoir was the basis for the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. This is the true story of Solomon Northup, who was born and raised as a freeman in New York. He lived the American dream, with a house and a loving family - a wife and two kids. Then one day he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in the deep south. These are the true accounts of his twelve hard years as a slave - many believe this memoir is even more graphic and disturbing than the film. His extraordinary journey proves the resiliency of hope and the human spirit despite the most grueling and formidable of circumstances.
  • (5/5)
    I'd never heard of this book until promotion for the film, which I've not seen, began and inspired me to seek it out. I got it on my Kindle.I don't think I'd read anything on American slavery before but I'd imagined I knew pretty much what went on.However two things came very strongly out of this book for me and which I'd not really thought about before. The first was the grinding relentless reality of slavery, the day after day, month after month, year after year existence, the unceasing toil, unceasing cruelty, the total lack of respect for age or sex or family; above all, what all of this does to someone. The book gives vivid, ofthen harrowing depictions of all of this. And there are moments of vicious brutality which are not at all easy to read.The second, which Northup touched on in several places, was the utterly warped thinking which slavery engendered, as a necessity, in not just the slave owners but in a slave owning society. I think I can understand now why after abolition it took over a century and five generations to get out from under that thinking; I'd never really understood that before.
  • (5/5)
    Published in 1853, this is the true life account of Solomon Northup, free man of Saratoga NY, properly educated as a child, married with three children and one time owner of a ferry service on the Hudson River. Through deceit and trickery, he was enticed to Washington DC with a job offer, drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. He was shipped to a slave market in New Orleans where he was sold to William Ford. His time with the kindly Ford was short lived. Due to financial troubles, Ford was forced to sell Northup to the violent and volatile Edwin Epps. Northup toiled for almost 11 years in backwoods Louisiana before being rescued and restored to his family. Upon his return to freedom, Northup brought charges against the perpetrators. The case in NY was dropped due to issues over jurisdiction. The case in DC resulted in an acquittal because Northup, a black man, was not allowed to testify there. Northup's book was an instant success, selling 30,000 copies. Unlike other slavery accounts of the day, it was written from the perspective and experiences of a free man who finds himself so horribly betrayed and enslaved. His writing was not polemical. (He actually had kind words to say about his first master.) Accordingly, his writing was given greater weight as a true account, written without an agenda. Sympathy for his plight spurred abolitionists and won the approbation of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who stated it magnified and informed her Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In the last days of the Civil War, Union soldiers remarkably searched out Edwin Epps, who agreed Northup’s account was factual. Northup spoke movingly and well about his experiences and was sought on the speechmaking circuit. Before being lost to history, documentary evidence also indicates he actively assisted slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. How does this account hold up for modern eyes? Northup’s story is written with all of the verbal flourishes of mid 19th century literature. You will not want to read Twelve Years A Slave for the quality of the prose but rather for the powerful impact of his experiences. I was particularly moved by his palpable love of his wife and children. There is a searing account of one woman’s agony and grief upon being separated from her children at the slave market. Most heartrending is the fate of Patsy, forever caught between the unwanted libidinous interest of her master and the punishments of her spiteful jealous mistress. Historically important both in Northup’s time and ours, this unique perspective on a now incomprehensible way of life is highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    A heartbreaking account of Soloman Nothup's kidnapping. How he was taken from his family, being a free man and forced into bondage for 12 years. The worse for it being a true story! How heartless owners whipped and used him to within an inch of his life, just because he was a black man!A brilliant read, written in language that is evocative of the times. The book on which the film of the same name was based
  • (4/5)
    Solomon Northup, a free black living in the free state of New York, was kidnapped and sold into slavery where he barely survived brutal and inhuman treatment at he hands go his "owner." The horrific conditions of the slaves and their oppression are aptly told with clarity and without exaggeration.
  • (4/5)
    I saw the film first, which rather colours ones view somewhat. But both are great in different ways.I still cannot get over the fact that this intense barbarity went on only 150 years ago.
  • (4/5)
    Solomon Northup was a free black man living in New York state during the slave era. Married with a family, he is looking for extra work when he encounters a couple of men who say they've heard he plays a mean fiddle (he does), and wonder if he'd like to earn some money. He would, so he accompanies them to Washington DC without even letting his wife know, since she's also out of town at the moment. The evening they arrive he seems to be drugged by someone, whether that's the men he was traveling with or someone else, he's not sure. He awakens chained to the floor, and ultimately ends up being transported to Louisiana and sold as a slave. Solomon learns quickly that mentioning his status as a free man is not going to gain him anything but beatings, so he keeps his head down, watching and waiting for an opportunity to make contact with home and someone who can help him. From the title, we know it's not going to happen too soon.The events in the book are no worse than any other account of slavery, but I suppose some may find them more poignant by virtue of being told from the point of view of someone who started out as a free American. I found Solomon's predicament interesting, but I was always mindful that his experience was similar to that of many others who didn't have the ability to read and write to tell their stories, and who didn't have anyone to appeal to for their freedom. But he did what he could at the time, which is to get the hell out of slave states, and to tell the tale. Northup tells of both good and bad masters, not vilifying all white men in the south for their participation in slavery, but instead evaluating them as individuals. Considering the circumstances under which he got to know these men, it's remarkable that he was able to be so even-handed.The writing was simple and conversational, and the audio version (read by Lou Gossett, Jr.) was the perfect format to add immediacy to the experience.
  • (5/5)
    A free black man is forced into slavery, and stays a slave for twelve years. How can anyone survive what too many of the slaves endured?This remarkable memoir is highly readable and no one with even the least little heart could fail to be touched deeply by it.The language is the language of the time, and helps transport the reader to the world of Mr. Northup. The book is relatively short, but what a wallop it packs in those pages. It is never boring and immensely informative.While painting a very ugly picture, this book is not a diatribe. The author recognizes that although the institution of slavery is abominable, there were masters who treated their slaves well, if holding people against their will, owning them, can ever be considered good treatment. This particular Kindle edition does have some mistakes in it. I most frequently noticed that words were split in two, but there were also some incorrect words and a few formatting problems. However, and despite the mistakes, the editing is not awful, and the content of the story more than makes up for any editing issues.
  • (5/5)
    A Must ReadHow was it I never heard of this book before the movie's circulation? I read it in preparation for the movie, which I still have yet to see. 12 Years A Slave is a heartbreaking memoir of a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. And yet I found it an uplifting and inspirational story. The conditions and behaviors are naturally horrifying, but the book is well written and quite balanced in outlook. The fact it is non-fiction and all events are verifiable amazed me. A very moving historical testament.
  • (5/5)
    Don't be off-put by the Victorian language. We can blame Northup's editor for that. The book is a must-read document. I would have found the story too incredible to believe if not for the painstaking research of Clifford Brown, Rachel Seligman, and David Friske who drew on original sources for their biography, Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years A Slave.
  • (5/5)
    Solomon Northup was born in 1808, the son of a freedman whose ancestors had been slaves in Rhode Island. In 1841 he was tricked and kidnapped, handed over to slave traders and transported to Louisiana. While initially owned by "the kind, noble, candid, Christian" master, William Ford, he was sold after his master fell on hard times and for most of the rest of his captivity was owned by the cruel Edwin Epps. He had many bitter low points ("there have been hours in my unhappy life....when the contemplation of death as the end of earthly sorrow - of the grave as a resting place for the tired and worn out body - has been pleasant to dwell upon"). He eventually managed to smuggle out letters through a sympathetic contact and secure his freedom and return to his family in New York in 1853. I haven't seen the 2013 film based on this book, but will now seek to do so.Solomon tells his story, published a few months after his return to freedom, in simple but powerful words and is at times quite laconic in its presentation of the sufferings he endures ("..after a bondage of twelve years - it has been suggested that an account of my life and fortunes would not be uninteresting to the public"). Being written with the mindset of the mid-19th century, it contains assumptions that are of its time, e.g. while believing that the black man is as entitled to freedom as the white man, he seems to have imbibed the belief that most (though not all, in his view) white men are inherently superior ("[I was]..conscious, moreover, of an intelligence equal to that of some men, at least, with a fairer skin"; "I clasped them [his children] to my bosom with as warm and tender love as if their clouded skins had been as white as snow"). He recounts the rhythms of the slaves' lives, the brusque separation of family members, the beatings and hard labour, the inadequate and monotonous diet, but above all, I think, the sheer arbitrariness of the slave's life; the knowledge that a master can do anything he or she wishes to what the law deems his or her own property. Despite having worked for both humane and cruel masters, he is clear that "nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one" and that ignorant writers talking about the "pleasures of slave life... will find that ninety-nine out of every hundred [slaves] are intelligent enough to understand their situation, and to cherish in their bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as themselves." One final powerful image: "Within plain sight of this same house [the slave pen in Washington], looking down from its commanding height upon it, was the Capitol. The voices of patriotic representatives boasting of freedom and equality, and the rattling of the poor slave's chains, almost commingled".Brilliant stuff and a defence of human freedom that is relevant to all races and nations and to any period of time.
  • (5/5)
    This is the harrowing account of a free black man who was kidnapped. His free papers were stolen, he was viciously beaten into submission and then transported to plantations in the south as a slave. His whereabouts were unknown to any and all who could free him. The idea that any man, of any color, or any background, could be captured and penned, treated like no more than a brute animal, should have been, then and surely now, nothing short of anathema to any breathing human being. Ignorance could not be a legitimate excuse, anymore than it could have been during the Holocaust. Myself, I am at a loss to understand why an economy driven by slaves would be exalted, why greed would be elevated to heights higher than human dignity.Man’s inhumanity to man, man’s ability to turn a blind eye to human suffering for monetary gain, will render the reader speechless and horrified. As a Jew whose history is steeped in slavery, I felt personally affected by his plight and angered to the point of distraction, because there is absolutely nothing anyone can do today to reverse the effects of the terrible injustice imposed upon people, simply because of their color. They were kept illiterate, forbidden to improve their station in life, beaten violently for the slightest infractions, by people who would not have wanted such a life for themselves or anyone they associated with, and yet, they turned a blind eye to accumulate the all-mighty dollar. Those who hated, taught their offspring to hate. Those who hated, hired overseers who hated. Those who hated often got away unscathed. Justice was usually not served for the black man. No matter how many times one reads about slavery, it is impossible to get used to the idea that human trafficking existed in this country with very little opposition, for many years, and today, still exists in other avenues of the culture.The successful economy of the plantation depended upon slavery, but while the South flourished, the slaves did not. They worked until their deaths, without hope of freedom or any basic civil rights. In this book, there is a definitive description of the life of a slave, by a man who walked in those shoes. No man or woman could possibly begin to understand the horror of a slave’s existence, the helplessness, the shame, the humiliation, the human suffering, unless they walked in those shoes, themselves. The reader will come to understand, more fully, how cruel and barbaric the practice was and will understand why it has been so hard, for those enslaved and their descendants, to achieve success, even today.Families were torn asunder, children were separated from mothers, husbands from wives, friends from friends, and then subjected to abuse, beatings, rape, overwork, starvation, unlivable living conditions, and brutal masters, until they were completely subdued and weakened, unable to defend themselves, unable to change their circumstances, unable to do anything but acquiesce or die.From Solomon’s descriptions of the despicable treatment of the slaves, as if they were less than human, lower than animals in bondage, made to respond like automatons, the reader will come to understand how strong these people had to be, mentally and physically, in order to withstand so much cruelty and exploitation, in order not to succumb. One will wonder why they would even want to live under such conditions, yet they found a way to find enjoyment and pleasure in the few moments they could share together, on holidays, in evenings, in moments when they were alone. They managed to create communities for themselves, even under such horrendous circumstances. Solomon makes it a point of saying that not all masters were cruel. He often found goodness in unexpected places. He, himself, was sometimes forced to be cruel to his friends and fellow slaves, forced to lose his own humanity by joining forces with the masters in order to avoid his own abuse and beatings. His plight, during his years as a slave, when he was required to whip fellow slaves, reminded me of that of the Kapos, during the Holocaust. Kapos were prisoners who meted out the justice and punishment upon other prisoners, for their Nazi captors. Were they co-conspirators or simply saving their own skins? It is an ethical conundrum.Perhaps not all masters were the same, but all owned their slaves and valued them more for their purchase or resale price and their productivity, rather than for their lives. Some slaves, realizing they would never be free, tried to escape. When caught, the punishment was inhuman. They were whipped beyond comprehension or murdered. Although many tried hard to please their masters, they were often caught between the petty jealousies of the master and the mistress, neither willing to understand that a slave had no choice but to do what they were told, that they had no free will. There was no safety for them. There were no defenders of their plight.Simply reading about the beatings, often beyond human endurance, made my skin crawl, made me want to find those barbaric, immoral, insensitive savages who treated other human beings so maliciously, though they are long gone. These poor victims had no recourse whatsoever. The mercilessness of the owners and the overseers leaves the reader aghast and hoping there is an afterlife where these people do get their just desserts. They were totally selfish and cold-blooded, pitiless and callous. There are simply no adequate words to describe that blight upon our history.The years of beatings and abuse never broke Solomon’s spirit; he saw good qualities in almost everyone he met and always maintained a positive attitude, hoping to be free again.In this memoir, he presents a clear, concise description of slavery from a slave’s vantage point. His daily life was one of monotonous, unending labor and fear. Solomon was luckier than most. He played the violin and could entertain plantation owners, occasionally escaping the toil of his fellow slaves. He was clever and could build and repair most things, unlike the vast majority of slaves who were kept totally imprisoned by their forced life of ignorance. He was therefore, more valued. He knew of the outside world, while they knew of no other than the world of master and slave. He lived to go from his capture and captivity to freedom and his wife and family. He lived to try and see the worst of these slave traders cringe in fear, but not, unfortunately, brought to justice. Even though he was a free man in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the world, he was still subservient, still second class. Once free, I read that he lectured on his experiences and also worked on behalf of the cause to abolish slavery and to aid other slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad.The descriptions of the cultivation and picking of the cotton and the process of planting and cutting of the sugar cane, as well as the explanation of how some of the crude equipment worked, was sometimes tedious, and that was the only drawback I could find in this beautifully written memoir, read by Louis Gossett Jr.
  • (5/5)
    This is a very old story... a plague from throughout human history. Even though Solomon is revealing his personal story from a 160 years ago, it is as fresh as if it happened today. Why? Because it still is happening today. Human trafficking is a blight on humanity... not only on those who participate but on those who are not outraged enough to do something about it. If you read this book and then continue to ignore the plight of sex-slave victims in your own town, state, country, and world, you are as guilty as those who pick up the whip and flail the backs of the down-troddened and victimized women and children every day. Read this book and then become an advocate for the poor and defenseless until this blight is removed.
  • (4/5)
    It’s quite tempting to call “Twelve Years a Slave” an overlooked or rediscovered classic, since it fell into obscurity after its initial success upon publication in 1853 and was pretty much forgotten until 1968, when a couple of historians decided to examine its accuracy. I suspect, however, that its neglect by the general public (and literary and historical scholars) has more to do with its author and its truth. Considering that Harriett Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (a fictional tale of slavery written by a white woman)—which was published just a year before Northrup’s autobiographical account of his abduction and forced bondage—has remained a canonical part of 19th century American literature, one wonders whether Northrup’s tale was perhaps less palatable to the literary and historical community because of its authenticity.Although the book contains disturbing depictions of whippings, detailed accounts of a slave’s day laboring in the cotton fields or the sugar mill, and the overall miserable living conditions of slaves—along with honest portrayals of unmitigated sadism committed by white men and women—Northrup does not embellish these accounts or depict them as outlandishly gruesome and brutal (though they no doubt were). His tone is almost demure and understated throughout—his dignity and sense of propriety triumphs over any vengeance or bitterness he undoubtedly felt.Reading Northrup’s memoir alongside Stowe’s novel would, I suspect, yield some valuable insights regarding the power of both genres in terms of narrative art and historiography.
  • (5/5)
    There is no question that Solomon Northup is a hero of American History. This Slave narrative, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, by SOLOMON NORTHUP, is unforgettable. I think the story is not only amazing but also miraculous. When I met Solomon Northup, he was a slave. Solomon Northup is born a free man. He lives in Upstate New York. He has a wife named Anne and three children. He is a hard working man and a honest man. Until one day his whole life changes. It is difficult to believe there are indeed rascals and scoundrels on the earth and in the vicinity where you live especially when you've been taught all the bad men or evil masters are down South. On this particular day, Mr. Northup befriends two men. Two men who will take him South and sell him to a Southern planter. Solomon Northup had no idea of their ugly plans. For twelve years Solomon Northup does not mention he is a free man. He works harder than a dog. He is beaten. He is treated like he was born into slavery. I could not see how his life could ever change, how he could regroup from such a trial and test. I can't imagine losing my whole family in one day. Never hearing whether they are dead or alive for twelve long years. This man, now not a man but an animal, to his slave holders, continues to struggle through each day. I think he had quite a bit of faith. He never praises himself in the narrative. He does finally call himself upright. How does he look upon slavery? He calls it a "peculiar institution." Other than that he will not judge this way of life in any way. He will leave it to other men and women. Along with Solomon Northup, I met the other slaves around him. I had the chance to read about them. One woman still lives in my head. She had two children. She begged, screamed, begged, "please don't sell my children from me." Those who know about American slavery can guess what happened to her and her children. I could hear her voice in my head because it was my voice. If any man would have taken my children from me to an unknown place, I would have died. I would not have had the fortitude to live on. But how many men and women did live through those days without hope of seeing or hearing their children again? Only an inhumane person could do such a thing to another person. This woman's story is a testament to the horrors of slavery. It made me think about my values in life. I now believe more fully nothing is impossible in life. Perhaps this is why people say the truth is stranger than fiction. Number two is that I must always keep putting one foot in front of the other foot as I journey through the adventures, unwanted adventures, of my life. I must also remember my scars from life whether emotional or physical in no way touch what the slave ancestors lived each and every day of their short lives. Strange, one man's narrative has the power two and a half centuries later to give hope to people of another generation. His voice speaks from the grave. He still lives because his story lives. His last wish was to lie in the church graveyard and finally go home to the Lord. Little did he know how much his life would mean to future old and young people. It is a disservice if these slave narratives are not read in our schools and discussed with relevance.I have been moved by other slave narratives: for example Frederick Douglass's narrative and The Incidents in a Slave Girl's Life. Truly, I think this one, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, is my favorite. Why? Simply because he already had that most precious gift, freedom. He had experienced it. Not just wished for it. He had it. It was stolen from him. How in the world must he have felt? And that is what made me want to read this narrative. I named two lesson from the narrative by Solomon Northup. There are more than any two I named. As I remember Northup, I will not forget Epps, his wife or the other slaves who worked around him. The slaves had no idea he was a free man until the day Henry Northup came to pick him up and take him back to New York State and his family. Therefore, Solomon Northup taught me the importance of knowing the power of silence at the right hour.As the young people say, "he kept it "real" for twelve long years. That's a mighty long time to give free labor while you are treated as less than a man in every way. In the end, Epps still called Northup "that d______d nigger." He didn't change one bit in his thinking. As a matter of fact he headed out on his horse to find a way to stop this foolish behavior. Had the world gone nuts? To Epps and white men like him, yes, the world was losing its way. Their workers in a few year would be set free. The Land of Cotton was in danger. Who else would do such work with so little food and clothing while being beater with whips?If only the "men or masters" around Northup, had looked at that last name. It would have told them life was going to change for the better and the North would help it happen. When it begun to happen, the Civil War, there would be no way for the slaves to go but "up." Up in their geography and Up in their thinking..america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/subject-of-12yearsaslave150yearsinwronggrave.html
  • (5/5)
    Because of the Academy Award nominated movie based on this book, I think most everyone is acquainted with the story of 12 Years a Slave. It’s the memoir written by Solomon Northup, a free black man who lived in New York state with his wife and three children. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and was a slave for twelve years before he was rescued.As one can imagine, Solomon’s time as a slave was utterly horrible. Because of the media coverage of the movie, I expected the worst in terms of what Solomon and the other slaves went through and the truth of it was even worse than I could have ever imagined. Not every scene is intense and graphic – I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading this book. It’s an important book and should be read by everyone. There are some scenes that are to read though, I won’t lie about that.I was surprised by how accessible the language Solomon used was. I’ve read other books from the 19th century that were really hard to follow and understand (Dickens, anyone?) This book was very beautifully and descriptively written but I still was always able to follow what was happening. I bought this version of the book because I anticipated struggling with it but I would have been just fine with the regular book.I haven’t seen the movie yet so I can’t draw any comparisons between the two but I still highly recommend this book to everyone.
  • (5/5)
    In a time when anything considered controversial is censured, Solomon Northup tells his story with honesty and humility. He takes the reader on his journey from being a free black man in the 1800s in America to becoming a beaten, starved and exploited slave, sold from one Master to another like cattle. His poignant real-life account of the appalling conditions he and his fellow slaves had to endure is heart-wrenching, and opens the reader’s eyes to the disgraceful acts of brutality inflicted on a human being by another.This man was an upstanding member of his community, who had been well educated and was also an accomplished violin player. He was a family man with a wife and three children, and took every measure possible to give them a decent and comfortable life.Unfortunately, in March of 1841, he was lured away from his home in Saratoga Springs by a pair of unscrupulous slave traders offering him money to join them on their journey to play his violin. He was drugged and divested of any documentation pertaining to him being free and thrown into a dark cellar, tied up like an animal, to await sale.What ensued was twelve years of torture that did not break his spirit. He resolved to continue with the hope that one day he would be liberated and once again return to his much-loved wife and children. That liberation came on January 1853.Northup’s story is one that must be read.
  • (4/5)
    “If they don't know as much as their masters, whose fault is it? They are not allowed to know anything. You have books and papers, and can go where you please, and gather intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves have no privileges. You'd whip one of them if caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, generation after generation, deprived of mental improvement, and who can expect them to possess much knowledge?”Reading about slavery from Northup's perspective was quite insightful because he was born free. It felt like he was soaking in every detail from the landscape to the nature and personalities of the other slaves so that he tell this story. Being without pen and paper during his 12 years of slavery did not hinder Northup's memory. I appreciated the details even though most were painful to read. "Truly, Patsey was a splendid animal, and were it not that bondage had enshrouded her intellect in utter and everlasting darkness, would have been chief among ten thousand of her people."After viewing the movie based on this book, I could not wait to read Northup's actual narrative about Patsey played by the actress Lupita Nyong'o. Patsey was known by her master as Queen of the Field because she could pick 500lbs of cotton a day. She was a tortured soul and only 23 years old {per Northup's documentation}. It makes my heart glad that this slave who was treated so brutally and only praised for her labor is now known of by people all over the world. Epps nor the mistress could not stop the power of the written word. Patsey you made it. Slavery did not keep you bound. That evil institution did not keep your story from us. Northup gave you your freedom by writing your story. You are more than the Queen of the Field you are the Queen of our Hearts. I will never forget you. Another remarkable woman of this narrative was the slave, Celeste. Her cunningness was inspiring. She evaded the dogs. They refused to follow her tracks. Knowing something about the area that Northup writes from, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, I can only speculate that Celeste may have dabbled in "roots." She ran away and stayed in the woods for months. When the terror from the beasts of the swamps overwhelmed her she returned to her master. He fastened her neck in stocks and sent her back to the fields. Celeste your spirit of courage and determination was not lost. Other women put it on such as Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer. The stocks did not bind your spirit you found us. Personally, I think the only thing Solomon Northup had to get him through those twelve years was his music. Had he not gotten to play and travel to play I believe slavery would have stolen him from his family and us forever.
  • (4/5)
    Written in 1853 this is a true story of a free black man, basically kidnapped and sold into slavery. My first impression of this book was how wonderfully well it is written. My second was to note how dispassionately this story was told, as if the author had to emotionally distance himself in order to tell his story. So hard to read some of these events, but he also tells of good owners as well as those that were horrible.Have read that when this book was first published it caused barely a stir and quickly disappeared. Also recently read that one of the first printed copies of this book recently sold for 3500.00. Worthy read, just wish I knew what happened to the author in his later years.
  • (5/5)
    This is one of those books everyone should read. Northrup’s account of his kidnapping and twelve years of enslavement is made even more poignant by the matter-of-fact style of his narrative.
  • (3/5)
    2.5 starsIn the mid-1800s, Solomon Northup was a free black man from New York. He was married and had three kids. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. This is his story. I think I made the mistake of listening to the audio. Even worse, my library had the choice of three different audio books, with three different narrators. I chose the narrator I recognized (though I've not listened to him narrate a book before): Louis Gossett, Jr. Unfortunately, the book rarely held my attention. It did some, and the parts I paid attention to were ok, but overall, I missed out on too much of the book to really “like” it.
  • (5/5)
    I was way ahead on reading Battle Cry of Freedom for my Civil War reading group, so I decided to take a break and read something related. I'd been meaning to read this since seeing the heart-breaking movie, and as I'd found a nice copy at my favorite used bookstore last year, this seemed an obvious choice.I thought the movie did a fairly good job of keeping faithful to the book, so most of the horrors of this story were already familiar. So what impressed me most in this reading were Northup's remarkable insights into the people around him -- both the slaves who have known such treatment their entire lives, but also the slave owners. Some of his observations of the very real cost to their humanity by the brutalities they have inflicted and/or witnessed as members of the slave-holding class struck me. Northup wasn't just a man thrust into extraordinary circumstances -- he was clearly himself extraordinary, as a writer and observer, to be able to produce such an account.