Monday, August 4, 2014

Twelve Years A Slave

Solomon Northup was a freeman that was born and raised in New York. In 1841 he was drugged and kidnapped. He was illegally sold into slavery down south far from his family and friends. He endures horrifying events as a slave. He is finally rescued when he manages to send a letter to friends in the north, who come help him escape life as a slave. This is his memoir of his twelve years as a slave.

I appreciated the great effort Solomon Northup makes to make it clear that he is writing his own experiences, and does not claim that his experience is the same as everyone else who lived as a slave. In fact, I found his memoir to be quite unique among slave narratives that I have read. I had never read a book or memoir about a man who was born free in the northern United States, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and managed to regain his freedom.

One of the many aspects that is different from other narratives is that he uses real names, which does not happen very often in slave narratives. Because of fugitive slave laws, many slaves that escaped and wrote about their experiences were afraid of being captured and returned to slavery if people were able to figure out who they were. They were also reluctant to endanger those that had helped them in any way. I would be interested in learning if there were any consequences to Solomon for using actual names.

I thought it was written in a very clear and concise way, Solomon makes clear the physical as well as the psychological horrors of being a slave. He is careful to point out when he is repeating information that is told to him, and he does not know for certain the truth of it. It was a moving and horrifying book to read. It was a very powerful account about one man's experiences as a slave in the United States.

I have not yet seen the movie that recently came out about this book, but I hope to see it soon. I am pleased that it brought new attention to this book, as it is an important book to read about slavery in the United States. I had not heard about it until recently, and am glad that it was brought to my attention.

I recommend reading this book.

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