Twelve Years a Slave is a memoir of a black man who was born free in New York state but kidnapped, sold into slavery and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before the American Civil War. He provided details of slave markets in Washington, DC, as well as describing at length cotton cultivation on major plantations in Louisiana.
Published soon after Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Northup's book sold 30,000 copies and was considered a bestseller. It went through several editions in the nineteenth century. Supporting Stowe's fictional narrative in detail, Northup’s first-hand account of his twelve years of bondage proved another bombshell in the national political debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War, drawing endorsements from major Northern newspapers, anti-slavery organizations, and evangelical groups.
Now a major motion picture directed by Steve McQueen and starring Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Giamatti
12 Years a Slave is a riveting true account of a free man captured and sold into slavery in the pre–Civil War South. Solomon Northup’s narrative explores one of the darkest times in American history and captures in vivid detail the unimaginable realities of slavery.
In 1841, the educated musician Solomon Northup, a free man living in New York who is cruelly deceived by the promise of a job in Washington, is drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. Once Solomon arrives in New Orleans, he is given a slave name and soon realizes that any mention of his rights as a free man is sure to bring cruel punishment or death. Denied his freedom and ripped away from his family, he spends twelve emotionally and physically gruelling years on a Louisiana cotton plantation enduring the hardships and brutalities of life as a slave. When Solomon eventually finds a sympathizing friend, a daring rescue is attempted that could either end in Solomon’s death or restore his freedom and reunite him with his family.
When Solomon Northup published this harrowing account of slavery in 1853, it immediately stirred up controversy in the national debate over slavery, helping to sway public opinion in favour of abolition. His book 12 Years a Slave remains one of the most insightful, detailed, and eloquent depictions of slavery in America. It demonstrates the extraordinary resilience of one man’s spirit in the face of extreme suffering and his incredible will to survive.
“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith
One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.