Saturday, December 21, 2013

12 Years a Slave.

Prior to my reading Washington Post opinion writer, Richard Cohen's take on Steve McQueen’s movie 12 Years a Slave , I had never heard of Solomon Northup or his 1853 memoir of the same name. Surprising, since I had read books by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglass which deal with the same subject matter; slavery in America.

Being familiar with The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Uncle Tom's Cabin I suppose that, unlike Cohen, I had been ".........shockingly confronted by the sheer barbarity of American slavery" before reading Northrup's book. Unlike Cohen, I knew that Margaret Mitchell's  Gone With the Wind  was not an accurate portrayal of antebellum life in the South.

I've just finished reading Northrup's memoir; I haven't seen the movie, but I'm looking forward to doing so. If the movie is faithful to the book - which I suspect it is - it will be well worth one's time and money.

There are a number of unanswered questions which Northrup could not address. We know nothing of the fate of Northrup's slave companions following his release. Obviously, Northrup could not write on what he did not know. We'll never know the fate of these poor souls because Northrup himself could never know. We can hope that many of them lived to see the end of slavery, but the book was written a dozen years before slavery was finally abolished in the United States with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.

It would have been a splendid turn of events had Northrup's kidnappers received there just rewards. The book makes it clear that they went unpunished in this life time. Fortunately, no one escapes justice in the life to come.

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