Review: Twelve Years a Slave

Title: Twelve Years a Slave Image

Author: Solomon Northup

Rating: ★★★★★

Provided Synopsis: Kidnapped into slavery in 1841, Northup spent 12 years in captivity. This autobiographical memoir represents an exceptionally detailed and accurate description of slave life and plantation society. “A moving, vital testament to one of slavery’s ‘many thousand gone’ who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation.” — Saturday Review.

Review: How had I gone so many years without reading this book? Twelve Years a Slave is the most powerful slave narrative I have ever read. I cannot even begin to describe the emotions that were wrought out of me as I read about Solomon Northup’s life as a slave in Louisiana. At the beginning we learn of his life as a freeman in the North, then follow his misfortunes as he is tricked to travel into Washington, weakened by drugs and kidnapped, and sold into slavery. Once there, he learns to keep his freed status hidden at great risk of being unable to survive long enough to have the chance to escape.

The story of Solomon is one of endurance and intense despair; he writes so eloquently and vividly to express all that he has seen, all that he has felt, and all that he wishes to forget but never will be able to. I believed every word that he had to say. When he encountered people who were good to him, he is truthful enough to heft on the praise to their being and remind the reader that not all in the institution of slavery are cruel. And when he encounters cruelty, he is sure to note it yet also remark on how the system of slavery breeds such cruelty over generations. With thoughtful moments such as these and being one of the best written accounts of slavery from one who experienced it, I must implore on all who read this review to read this book.


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