12 Years A Slave
Slavery is outlawed today, but it is quite disturbing to think that only a few decades ago, many people actually considered it to be acceptable. The enslavement of numerous Africans, who were brought to America and literally worked to death on cotton and sugar plantations, was considered to be the right of the victors. Those who took part rarely saw their slaves as human beings, and treated them accordingly. Twelve Years a Slave, a memoir by Solomon Northup, helped open the public’s eyes to the inhumanly cruel realities of slavery.
The novel tells a story of a young African American who was born a free man in New York. He was kidnapped and forced to spend twelve years of his life as a slave, working on different plantations. During this time, he managed to keep in contact with his family by sending letters. This eventually helped release him from the horrible conditions he was held in. His account of the events that happened to him during this time can leave no heart untouched. The author managed to convey the realities of slavery in a way that allows the readers to actually feel the pain and horror the people forced into this position felt. The lives of slaves is described in detail, and this makes the book both fascinating and horrible at the same time. The novel is filled with arguments against slavery, and the proof the author uses is all the more convincing because the readers understand that he draws it from his own personal experience.
The impact of this story was huge. Unlike Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was mostly seen as fiction, Twelve Years a Slave was seen for what it was – the cry of a tormented soul who actually had to live through these horrors. The memoir was used by major anti-slavery organizations, and received endorsements from the major newspapers of the time. This book managed to touch people where a simple news report could not. Northup managed to describe the daily routines and living conditions of slaves in a truly realistic way to those who read the book. This made people actually see the problem that they had ignored for years, leading them to take the steps necessary to ensure that no horrors like these would ever be repeated again.
Northup’s story is also unique in that it describes him turning into a slave from the free man he was born to be through kidnapping. The realization that no one is safe from this nightmare increased the impact his book had, and helped abolish slavery in the U.S.