I first told you about Twelve Years A Slave - (the filmmakers have opted to use the arabic numerals so the title becomes 12 Years A Slave) - two years ago, back in early November 2011. The film stars British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a freeborn black man taken into slavery and held captive for twelve years. At that point I knew that the film was being adapted from Northup's memoir published in 1853 and that the book was out of print and not available to the general public, accessible only to academics and historians. Luckily director Steve McQueen's wife is one of those privileged historians. She brought the manuscript home to her husband to read, and the director, enthralled, got screenwriter John Ridley involved.
Fast forward two years and now the book is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc and the industry is abuzz with Oscar talk about the movie which comes out Christmas Day. I've posted the trailer before but I'll repost it below. I'm really curious about this one both because it's true and because it's not the usual take we see on slavery. Solomon was born free in Minerva, New York, the son of a slave freed by his master upon his death. As a child he learns to pay the violin, grows up leading a fairly uneventful life, helping his father on the farm, studying. He's a grown man of thirty with a wife and children when he's taken into slavery where he remains enslaved for twelve years.
I took a look at the book's opening; I can see why McQueen and Ridley were compelled to do it. The writing is heartfelt, direct and can be quite evocative. This is how Northup talks about his children just before he's taken from them -
They filled our house with gladness. Their young voices were music in our ears. Many an airy castle did their mother and myself build for the little innocents. When not at labor I was always walking with them, clad in their best attire, through the streets and groves of Saratoga. Their presence was my delight; and I clasped them to my bosom with as warm and tender love as if their clouded skins had been as white as snow.Solomon Northup's 12 Years A Slave was dedicated to Harriet Beecher Stowe. You can read the book FREE online at OpenLibrary.org
12 Years A Slave also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard. Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B, was instrumental in bringing the story to the screen.