12 Years A Slave: (movie Tie-in)

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12 Years A Slave: (movie Tie-in)

by Solomon Northup
Editor Henry Louis Gates
Introduction by Ira Berlin

Penguin Publishing Group | September 4, 2013 | Trade Paperback

12 Years A Slave: (movie Tie-in) is rated 4.6667 out of 5 by 6.
The official movie tie-in edition to the winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o, and directed by Steve McQueen
 
New York Times bestseller


“I could not believe that I had never heard of this book. It felt as important as Anne Frank’s Diary, only published nearly a hundred years before. . . . The book blew [my] mind: the epic range, the details, the adventure, the horror, and the humanity. . . . I hope my film can play a part in drawing attention to this important book of courage. Solomon’s bravery and life deserve nothing less.” —Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, from the Foreword
 
Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, Twelve Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation.
 
After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone as educated as Solomon Northup, or by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 304 pages, 7.75 × 5.06 × 0.75 in

Published: September 4, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143125419

ISBN - 13: 9780143125419

Found in: Biography and Memoir

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from So true Shows the depravity of man against man. Hard to believe events like this happened but they did and this book eloquently relays them. I like the fact that all events can be checked out with records and shown as true.
Date published: 2014-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 12 YEARS A SLAVE This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. The fact that it is a true story makes it very compelling. The author let you know exactly how terrible life was for a slave without going into graphic and sickening details. A very well told true story. I am looking forward to watching the movie and hope it closely followed the book.
Date published: 2014-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A remarkable story of perseverance After watching the film I really wanted to read this book and I was not disappointed. It truly is a remarkable story of perseverance. The book also includes more background information than the film that really rounds out the story and the history. I really enjoyed reading and learning about Mr. Northup's journey to freedom, and would highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2014-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better than the movie This was better than the movie because book Solomon is proactive character and quite a badass. Unlike the movie where he was too passive and nothing really happened, the book flows much better and main character is very engaging. There are thrilling scenes such as when he espaces into marshes and dodges alligators, and there are scenes that show his great cunning, such as when he was made a slave driver and thought slaves how to appear that he was flogging them when he was only pretending. There are many examples of his dynamic character that haven't bene included into the movie since it was too focused on passive suffering than anything else. This is highly recommendable book especially if you saw the movie and have wrong impression about Solomon. Do him juctice and read his own account.
Date published: 2014-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 12 Years a Slave You won't find this story anywhere else: a story about African-American slavery written by a man who was both free and a slave; a story of slave owners, both kind-hearted and cruel; and a story about how depravity as a societal norm affects the generations. You won't find this story anywhere else, so read this book. Solomon Northup was born a free man. Educated and hard-working, he thrived, married and had children in the free state of New York. In 1841, two men lured him to Washington, D.C., drugged him and psychologically terrorized him with beatings, and sold him into slavery. The beatings the men inflicted on Northup worked. Terrified of revealing his true identity and his status as a free man, he spent twelve years in Louisiana as a slave on cotton plantations. Driven to find a way to return home but with few options or resources available to him, he laboured, endured punishments, inflicted punishments, and bore witness to the trap that is slavery. Northup published his account of life in slavery to inform 19th Century Americans about all aspects of the practice. He emphasized several themes: He discouraged anyone from believing that slaves didn't understand or desire freedom. Too many people at the time said that slaves had food and a roof over their head, so they neither needed nor desired anything else. Northup made it clear that this was not so. "They do not fail to observe the difference between their own condition and the meanest of white man's, and to realize the injustice of the laws which place it in his power . . ." He wrote about the de-humanizing impact of the cruelty of slave-owners. The repeated beatings and whippings caused men to behave more "like savages than civilized and enlightened beings." "The existence of Slavery in its most cruel form among them has a tendency to brutalize the humane and finer feelings of their nature." Immune to the suffering of others, the violence begat more violence in a horrific cycle. He described his helpless feeling when forced to play his own part in the brutality. Slaves beating slaves was part of the psychological torment. Northup observed sadly the passing on of prejudice from one generation to the next. Sons, daughters, and wives learned how to treat their slaves cruelly by observing the owners and overseers. The slave owners not only taught family members to beat and whip slaves, they encouraged such behaviour. "The effect of these exhibitions of brutality on the household of the slave-holder, is apparent. Epps' [a slave owner] oldest son is an intelligent lad of ten or twelve years of age. It is pitiable, sometimes, to see him chastising, for instance, the venerable Uncle Abram. He will call the old man to account, and if in his childish judgment it is necessary, sentence him to a certain number of lashes, which he proceeds to inflict . . . he often rides into the field with his whip playing the overseer, much to his father's delight." In 1853, Northup regained his freedom (with the help of a Canadian, I'm proud to say), and more than a century and a half later, Northup's concerns still need addressing. The passing on of racist attitudes from generation to generation means that African-Americans still face discrimination today. Slavery isn't an accepted part of the economic order in North American anymore, but slavery and human trafficking still exist. The perpetrators still behave "more like savages than enlightened human beings." Sadly, Northup's book is just as necessary today as it was in 1853. Read it, not because it's timeless, authentic and eloquent, but because its narrator will charm you, his objective fairness will impress you, and his truths still need to be told.
Date published: 2014-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eye opener Was surprised on many levels....for the educated voice of Simon; for the level of cruelty toward the black people of the South; for the attitudes of the whites of the South.  A captivating story that should become a classic and compulsory reading for students.  Highly recommend.
Date published: 2014-02-03

– More About This Product –

12 Years A Slave: (movie Tie-in)

12 Years A Slave: (movie Tie-in)

by Solomon Northup
Editor Henry Louis Gates
Introduction by Ira Berlin

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 304 pages, 7.75 × 5.06 × 0.75 in

Published: September 4, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143125419

ISBN - 13: 9780143125419

From the Publisher

The official movie tie-in edition to the winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o, and directed by Steve McQueen
 
New York Times bestseller


“I could not believe that I had never heard of this book. It felt as important as Anne Frank’s Diary, only published nearly a hundred years before. . . . The book blew [my] mind: the epic range, the details, the adventure, the horror, and the humanity. . . . I hope my film can play a part in drawing attention to this important book of courage. Solomon’s bravery and life deserve nothing less.” —Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, from the Foreword
 
Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, Twelve Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation.
 
After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone as educated as Solomon Northup, or by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.

About the Author

Solomon Northup (1808–c. 1863) was a free man kidnapped and forced into slavery in 1851. The details of his life after the publication of his acclaimed memoir are unknown.
 
Ira Berlin is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. His many books include The Making of African America and Many Thousands Gone, winner of the Bancroft Prize and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Editorial Reviews

“I could not believe that I had never heard of this book. It felt as important as Anne Frank’s Diary, only published nearly a hundred years before. . . . The book blew [my] mind: the epic range, the details, the adventure, the horror, and the humanity. . . . I hope my film can play a part in drawing attention to this important book of courage. Solomon’s bravery and life deserve nothing less.” —Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, from the Foreword“Frightening, gripping and inspiring . . . Northup’s story seems almost biblical, structured as it is as a descent and resurrection narrative of a protagonist who, like Christ, was 33 at the time of his abduction. . . . Northup reminds us of the fragile nature of freedom in any human society and the harsh reality that whatever legal boundaries existed between so-called free states and slave states in 1841, no black man, woman or child was permanently safe.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from the Afterword “For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup’s tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement.” —Ira Berlin, from the Introduction“If you think the movie offers a terrible-enough portrait of slavery, please, do read the book. . . . The film is stupendous art, but it owes much to a priceless piece of document. Solomon Northup’s memoir is history. . . . His was not simply an extraordinary story, but an account of the life of a great many ordinary people.” —The Daily Beast“An incredible document, amazingl
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Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION

For a free black man who lived in a society in which most black people were politically proscribed, economically impoverished, and socially ostracized, Solomon Northup lived a good life. He, his wife, and children enjoyed a modest prosperity in the upstate New York community of Saratoga Springs where his reputation as a clever jack-of-all-trades and an accomplished fiddler gained him the respect of white and black.

But free status and admirable reputation meant little in a slave society, where the worth of black flesh was measured by labor transformed into dollars. While slavery may have been abolished in the North, kidnappers and their confederates-driven by the swelling demand for men and women to grow cotton, sugar, and other valuable commodities-roamed the land. The lack of respect for black humanity put all black people, no matter what their standing, at risk.

In the spring of 1841, Northup's wife left Saratoga for short-term employment in a nearby town.

In her absence, Northup-eager to earn a few extra dollars, display his talents, and perhaps see a bit of the world-eagerly accepted an invitation to join a traveling circus. His travels went well until Northup reached the nation's capital where his companions drugged and sold him to a local slave trader. Beaten mercilessly when he asserted his claim to freedom, Northup was shipped to Louisiana where he labored as a slave for more than a decade.

In Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup tells the story of his captivity. His account is distinguished from the some 150 slave-authored narratives published before the Civil War, as Northup had been born free. It is a brutal story, which provides an unvarnished view of the inhumanity inherent in the system of chattel bondage. More than any contemporary account of slavery, Northup's provides a full sense of how slavery compounded the most sordid human instincts and twisted even well-meaning acts beyond recognition. But Northup was determined neither to exaggerate slaveholder's inequity nor the slave's virtue. Slave masters were both good and bad; slaves strong and weak. Rather than rehearse the well-known stereotypes, Northup exposed complex ways in which men and women, master and slave reacted to the unspeakable evil of enslavement. It was not a pretty picture.

But if slavery was a hellish nightmare, living death in the words of one scholar, it was also life. Twelve Years a Slave explains how some men and women refused to be dehumanized by dehumanizing circumstances, creating meaningful relationships and maintaining estimable values in the most difficult of circumstances. Others collapsed before the unrelenting brutality that was the essence of slavery. Northup's narrative tells both stories and historians have declared his harsh truths to be one of the best accounts of slavery.

Through his years of enslavement, Northup never surrendered his desire to reclaim his birthright in freedom. Heart-rending betrayals frustrated his several attempts to escape. Eventually, however, a chance encounter with an eccentric Canadian journeyman carpenter-whose antislavery views were so beyond the conventional wisdom that most white Southerners dismissed them as harmless-informed Northup's wife of his whereabouts. She, in turn, mobilized Northup's friends and local officials to secure his liberty.

In 1853, Northup reunited with his family. His escape from bondage made national news, elevating Northup to celebrity status. With the aid of abolitionist friends, he took to the lecture circuit and a local littérateur helped him pen Twelve Years a Slave, which went through several editions during its first years in print. By 1856, it had sold some 30,000 copies. Although the book enabled Northup to restore his family's prosperity, his fame was fleeting. Attempts to bring his kidnappers to justice foundered in the courts and came to nothing. Northup enjoyed his last years with his family in nearly total anonymity. Nothing is known of when or where he died. But with Twelve Years a Slave, he left his mark for posterity.


ABOUT SOLOMON NORTHUP

Solomon Northup was a free man kidnapped into slavery in Washington, D.C, in 1841. Shortly after his escape, he published his memoirs to great acclaim and brought legal action against his abductors, though they were never prosecuted. The details of his life thereafter are unknown, but he is believed to have died in Glen Falls, New York, around 1863.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  1. Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave was one of some 150 so-called "Slave Narratives" published before the Civil War. Their purpose was to give the white Northerners a first-hand glimpse of slavery and to enlist them in the antislavery crusade. They were both literature and propaganda. What is the essence of Northup's description of Southern slavery?

  2. One of the distinguishing features of Twelve Years a Slave is its specificity. Unlike most slave narratives, Northup did not employ pseudonyms for persons or places and rarely wrote in generalities. Northup also studiously avoided stereotypes: there are good masters and bad; slaves who resist and those who collapse before white power. Northup hoped that this frank portrayal would convince readers of the authenticity of his story. Does it? How does it achieve that aim?

  3. After witnessing the brutalities not only of white masters against enslaved blacks, but also white brutality against other whites, Northup observed, "It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives" (p. 135). Do you think this observation is accurate? Does it seem accurate to state that both whites and enslaved blacks that lived in the South were mutually affected by the system of slavery?

  4. Although Northup says little directly about the struggle against slavery that is preoccupying the nation in the decade before the Civil War, Twelve Years a Slave is one of the most powerful weapons in the antislavery arsenal. What makes it so?

  5. Another distinguishing mark of Twelve Years a Slave is the author's free status. Most of the slave narratives-like that of Frederick Douglass, for example-were written by an author who had been born into slavery. How does Northup's free status shape his narrative? How might it have influenced the book's reception?

  6. How does Northup depict black life in the North?

  7. In the North, free black people lived in fear of kidnappers, who operated with near impunity in almost all Northern cities. Yet, Northup seems impervious to the possibilities that he might be targeted and that the offer to join a circus might be too good to be true. What might have made Northup miss the seemingly obvious danger?

  8. Solomon Northup was a keen observer of human nature. Did his ability to discern people's character build solidarity with his fellow slaves or did his analytic skills to observe how others dealt with the reality of enslavement distance him from the slave community? With what types of men and women did Northup find commonality or comradeship?

  9. Solomon Northup never gave up hope of regaining his freedom and resisted the dehumanization of enslavement in many ways. How did he and other slaves resist slavery?

  10. The family played a critical role in Northup's life in both freedom and slavery. How does his portrayal of black family life shape his narrative and his critique of slavery?

  11. Related to the emphasis on family life is the role played by women, black and white, in Northup's narrative. In fact, females are among the most important characters in Twelve Years a Slave. How do women serve as a measure for the nature of slavery?

  12. Describe the position of women within the slaveholding world. How would you characterize someone like Eliza or Patsy? What are the differences between the experiences of enslaved women and slaveholding mistresses like Mrs. Epps? Are women more or less vulnerable than men to the brutality of a slave society, or is it a different kind of vulnerability altogether? What advantages or disadvantages might enslaved women have over enslaved men?

  13. Northup has a good deal to say about labor. What is his understanding of the nature of work, the development of a work ethic, the relations between employees and employers (in the North) and slave and masters (in the South), and the quality and productivity of labor in both sections?

  14. Music plays a large role in Northup's life. Northup's omnipresent fiddle was a source of empowerment and a symbol of his subordination. What does the fiddle tell us about Northup and African American life in slavery and freedom?