The memoir by Solomon Northup upon which the recent critically acclaimed feature film, Twelve Years a Slave (2013) directed by Steve McQueen, was based. The narrative tells the harrowing true story of Northup, who was born free in New York state but kidnapped in Washington, D.C., sold into slavery and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana. In the account Northup provides details (invaluable now to historians) of slave markets and what daily life was like on the major sugar and cotton plantations of Louisiana. Released in 1853, just a year after Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel about slavery, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the book sold 30,000 copies in it's first year and was considered a bestseller. It was published in several editions throughout the 19th century but then fell into obscurity for nearly 100 years, until it's re-discovery by two Louisiana historians in the 1960s, leading to a historically annotated version published by LSU Press in 1968.
January 14, 2014