12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, 1853.
Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, 12 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 series of Louisiana plantations.
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 with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.
I had never heard of this book until the movie came out in 2013. I have yet to see the movie, even though my interest to see it has not gone away. I feel like this is a story that would have learned about at someone point in one’s schooling. I feel kind of dumb for not knowing about it sooner, to be honest.
I feel like this is a perspective of slavery we don’t hear about much in school – a born 100% free man trapped into slavery. It was interesting to see how he would react in situations with the southern white men. I was surprised he survived those altercations. Northup even talks about how lucky he was to “get away” with most of his actions in the south.
It was also pretty cool to read about how the plantations worked and how different things were harvested. I was crazy to read about their food rations and what they actually had to eat. I knew it wasn’t much, but Northup went into detail about what they eat and how they make it. They were basically only allowed corn as their main nutrition. This book was an eye opener in more than one way.
It was also pretty easy to read. At first, I was put off a little bit by the such proper English that was used, but I got over that quickly. That’s one part of classics that I like. It makes your brain work harder to understand what is being said.
Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a good choice for my second classic of the 2016 Classics Reading Challenge.