Monday, September 29, 2014

"One eye was on my work, the other on my master"

12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup
Last night I finished reading Twelve Years A Slave (1853), the memoir of Solomon Northup, which was turned into a movie by Steve McQueen accoladed for its cast, screenplay, design, score and cinematography. I must admit that I haven't had a chance to see it yet, but I assure you that I'm making work of it. Solomon's slave story is as brutal as they come, and I'm very curious to find out how McQueen brought it to life and depicted the inhumanity of slavery.

You'll get that review later.

Here's Solomon's story, as told to and edited by David Wilson:

Living as a free man in Saratoga, New York, Solomon is approached one day by two men who offer him a job as a musician. Without informing his wife, who was away at work, he travels with them to Washington, D.C. Soon after, he wakes up bound in the cell of a slave pen. Beaten until he vows to never mention his free life again, him and other enslaved blacks are shipped to New Orleans. He was sold to and leased by several men, of which Edwin Epps, who enslaved Solomon for 10 years, was by far the cruellest.

Twelve Years A Slave is a captivating read from start to finish. Northup's experience is fascinating and heartbreaking, and the book becomes even more chilling when you realize it's not fiction. This stuff really happened, and not by exception! Slavery and oppression were at one point institutionalized and I found it unfathomable to think that kidnapping and dehumanizing black women and men was common practice up until 150 years ago. Oh, and despite the fact that this book was written in 1853, it's still highly readable. Go read this if you're looking for a compelling insight into one of the nastiest chapters in US history.

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