"Twelve Years a Slave" by Solomon Northup. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A gut-wrenching autobiography! That's Solomon Northup's "Twelve Years a Slave," the personal recounting of his years of enforced slavery between 1841 to 1853. The tale as told is normally matter-of-fact and descriptive, exhibiting intensely personal knowledge of cotton farming, sugar cane harvesting, as well as daily details of a slave's life.
There are appropriate places where the author's blood boils, but those are rare. What makes this personal monograph gut-wrenching is the injustice of it all. The reader will slowly find themselves identifying with the writer, imagining themselves in his cotton clothes, feeling the suffocating darkness of suddenly having no rights, no voice and only marginal personhood; while scrabbling for food, for one more day of life, one less time of whippings, and one last chance at dignity!
There are surprising high points as well. Master Ford, Northup's first owner was a "model master" who treated him, and all of his slaves, with kindness and decency. Samuel Bass, the carpenter who gave his energies and time to get Northup released. And Miss Mary McCoy, the "orphan mistress of the old Norwood estate." Along with these are the Christmas holidays, "the happiest day in the whole year for a slave. That morning he need not hurry to the field with his gourd and his cotton-bag...The time of feasting and dancing had come...It was to be a day of liberty among the children of Slavery."
In the end, I found myself disgusted at the overall injustice and the specific maltreatment of Northup. I also was saddened by the temperamental maliciousness of Tibeats and Epps, grieved at the plight of Eliza, her children, and Patsey, rejoiced at the kindnesses of Ford and McCoy, and gave thanks to heaven for the sincerity and genuineness of Bass. "Twelve Years a Slave" is not only an informative book, but it is also a gut-wrenching memoir. I strongly recommend the book!
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