Monday, 12 May 2014

Twelve Years a Slave

A free black man, Solomon Northrup, is born in the state of New York in the late 1700's.  He marries and has three children.  He works hard.  Life is good.  One day, a white man hears him playing his violin and compliments him on his talent.  He offers to pay him handsomely to play his instrument at a circus in Washington D.C.  The black man, not wanting to pass up the opportunity, agrees.  The two men take him to Washington D.C. by horse and carriage.  Solomon plays the violin as was requested and the two men pay him.  On the second night in the nation's capital, Solomon falls violently ill.  He can barely move.  He is in terrible pain.  He is delirious.  In the middle of the night, someone enters his hotel room, pulls him out of bed and takes him away.  In the morning, Solomon finds himself bound and shackled on a slow boat to New Orleans.  There, he is sold as a slave.  Solomon makes the mistake of telling his first owner that he is really a free man from New York State for which he received a horrific beating.  Solomon remembers not to mention it again.  He escapes from an ax-wielding white man.  With hounds at his heels, he escapes through a Louisiana swamp.  Solomon survives and is sold to another slave owner who also beats him.  After twelve years a slave, he encounters Bass, the town's only abolitionist.  It takes a year, but eventually Bass's efforts free Solomon who returns to the loving arms of his wife, children, and now grandchildren.  

Note:  Given that Solomon Northrup had very little education, he was extremely well written.  This story is packed with dates, names and events.  A well written piece of prose!  Keep in mind that all of these events take place decades before the Civil War and before the infamous Uncle Tom's Cabin was written.

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