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Twelve Years a Slave

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4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  53,580 Ratings  ·  4,291 Reviews
Born a free man in New York State in 1808, Solomon Northup was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841. He spent the next twelve years as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. During this time he was frequently abused and often afraid for his life. After regaining his freedom in 1853, Northup published this gripping account of his captivity. As an educated man, Northup ...more
Paperback, African American Classics, 304 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Penguin Classics (first published 1853)
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Popular Answered Questions

Dennis Tungate Yes! For several different reasons. Hatred,joy, and at man's unbelievable cruelty to his fellow man.
Vicki Farthing It depends on the 14 year old. My daughter was born middle aged so at 14 would of struggled a bit due to the the way it's written but it would of been…moreIt depends on the 14 year old. My daughter was born middle aged so at 14 would of struggled a bit due to the the way it's written but it would of been ok for her. Some of her friends wouldn't of been able to read it and it would of been too much for them.

Personally I think it should be read in school, along with Of Mice and Men which they've removed from the curriculum. It opens up the discussions of slavery, American history and varying cultures. As well as moral issues.

So in short, depends on the child and maybe in a setting that they can talk to others!(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brian
Aug 17, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: William T. Vollmann
Shelves: ruard_referred

There's a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet ... it may be sooner or it may be later, but it's a coming as sure as the Lord is just.

-Solomon Northup, 1855

I am a middle-age American white guy obsessed with my country's shameful chapter, our "peculiar institution" - slavery. No matter how many books I read, movies I see or any other means of approaching the subject there exists a gulf of understanding that can never be bridg
...more
Petar X
I know it's a genuine slave narrative, but it is just one-note. It concentrates on episode after episode of intense and repeated physical abuse. I don't doubt its veracity but there are far more nuanced - and readable - narratives out there.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is about life as a slave when not being physically abused. For most slave owners slaves were extremely expensive farm animals and only the richest who could afford 'herds' of them would be able to maltreat them on a cont
...more
Rowena
Feb 08, 2014 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
“Now had I approached within the shadow of the cloud, into the thick darkness whereof I was soon to disappear, thenceforward to be hidden from the eyes of all my kindred, and shut out from the sweet light of liberty for many a weary year.”

I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea that this was a true story. I find it odd that I’d never heard of this particular slave narrative, given how powerful and informative it is. I decided to read it after all the media frenzy surrounding the movie (which I hav
...more
Becky
I cannot fathom this book. Everything that happens in this autobiography is so distant from anything that I have experienced that I cannot even conceive of the injustice in any sort of measurable or reasonable amount. I feel angry and heartbroken that this sort of crime ever took place in our country, disgusted to the point of choking, so horrified that human trafficking through America is still so present and strong, so helpless because I don’t even know how to help, because I want to help, bec ...more
Bookworm Sean
Feb 22, 2016 Bookworm Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“My sufferings I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!”

This book is told from the view point of a man who was a slave, not some historian’s interpretation of the events or a novelist’s aggrandisement. It is a frank narrative of the events that surrounded one man’s persecution into a woeful existence and allows the reader to form their own opinion of the life of a slave. This is a unique enlightenment into the American slave system, of the 19th century, conveying the hypoc
...more
Stephanie
May 28, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished-2015
Twelve Years a Slave is chilling and atrocious -- a powerful memoir of Solomon Northup, a free "mulatto" man from New York who was brutally stolen from his way of life to become a slave in the Deep South in the 1850's.

This is a story that highlights the horrific life of a slave, portraying Solomon's experience of this institution first-hand. Also, in this book Solomon cites his years with a "good" master as well as those with a tyrant. You can't help buy be heart-broken when you read of a moth
...more
kisha
12 Years a Slave is probably the most unique slave book that I've read so far because I can't say that I have ever read about a free person being kidnapped and sold into slavery. The concept was new to me and I imagine it was probably very common considering that is full profit for a slave trader (not having to buy a slave and then sale for profit). I can't say that I absolutely loved his book. I also can't say that I believe most of what was written to be a fact. What I believe is that he was k ...more
Richard Knight
A lot of people are saying this book reads like a novel, but I couldn't disagree more. It reads like a man telling his life story, which is fascinating, giving what the man became for twelve years, but not as engrossing as some of the new journalism that came out in the 60s and 70s by people like Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer. Call it a book of its time.

I actually saw the movie before I read the book, and there's an interesting difference. The movie is about the life of a slave, while th
...more
Hadrian
Aug 25, 2014 Hadrian rated it really liked it
This is a horrifying story made only worse by the fact that it is all true. I'll leave other reviews to go on in detail about it.

I don't even have the consolation that 'well, at least it doesn't happen anymore'. Chattel slavery and abduction are still hideous problems the world over. It's all very grim to think about. Still, the world owes Northrup a debt of gratitude for bring the truth about such an awful system and the abuses it caused.
Greg
May 20, 2015 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciated this excellent book (some of its scenes still haunt me), but compared to other non-fiction slave narratives such as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, there was a bit more distance of perspective here. The facts are still searing; the antidotes still filled me with horror. But sometimes the narrator feels a step removed.

I read much of the account before I realized why I felt that way .. and then I got to Northup's description of the Christmas celebrations among the slaves. He
...more
Eugenie
Aug 18, 2015 Eugenie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable read, although distressing in parts. This true narrative is a must read, especially for right thinkers. It left me pondering the profound evil that was/is slavery. What folly is man's inhumanity towards other men! We all bear the responsibility to prevent even an inkling of such injustice wherever in the world it is still perpetrated.

Lela
Feb 20, 2014 Lela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones--there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnesses is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one, Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as it is, or as it is not--may expatiate with owlish gravity upon the bliss of ignorance--discourse flippantly from arm chairs of the plea ...more
Duane
The gut wrenching account, apparently true, of Solomon Northrup, a free black man, with wife and children living in New York State. He is kidnapped and sold as a slave, then shipped south to work on the plantations in Bayou Boeuf Louisiana. He spends most of the twelve years under the cruel tyranny of a sadistic plantation owner named Epps. His eventual escape and return to New York and his family occurs only after a series of events that aren't much short of a miracle. The narrative is painfull ...more
Elizabeth
Nov 25, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it.”
― Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

“There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones - there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life
...more
Chrissie
Slavery is an abomination. The United States was from its independence from England a nation that relied heavily on slavery. It was not a land of equality and it did not offer freedom for all.

This book is an autobiography written by Solomon Northup, a free Black kidnapped and taken into slavery for twelve years. He was from Upper-state New York. He played the fiddle. Given a proposition to earn extra money doing just this, he agreed to travel to Washington D.C. It was here he was kidnapped and
...more
Ken Moten
Jan 11, 2014 Ken Moten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
"I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under my own observation—only so far as I have known and experienced it in my own person. My object is, to give a candid and truthful statement of facts: to repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leaving it for others to determine, whether even the pages of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a severer bondage."

I feel intense guilt saying this, but I read this book after seeing the movie. I don't simply mean the film in thea
...more
Angela M
Feb 20, 2014 Angela M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can say that it was chilling, heart breaking, gut wrenching, atrocious and none of these words can aptly describe Solomon Northup's experience as told in this memoir. I did not know about this book until I saw the movie last month. During the brutal lashing scenes and the heart breaking scene of a mother separated from her children, you could hear a pin drop in the theater.
I left the movie theater, frantically looking in the Amazon app for the book. After I finished the book, I felt that same
...more
b00k r3vi3ws
Aug 10, 2014 b00k r3vi3ws rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am afraid that I am guilty this time around of watching the movie before reading the book.

Twelve Years a Slave is Solomon Northup’s story of how he was kidnapped, drugged, beaten and sold off as a slave. It is a detailed account of 12 years of his life that he spent as a slave. The brutalities that he had to endure, the psychological torture that it was and the stories of the people who touched his life in one way or the other. He not only narrates his own story, but through knowing him and hi
...more
Dorothea
Dec 31, 2011 Dorothea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Is it weird to have a favorite slave narrative? This is my favorite slave narrative, mainly because Solomon Northup was BAD. ASS.

Somebody needs to make a superhero-style comic about this man.

Northup was born free and lived most of his first thirty-three years in New York, where he married and had three children. His wife, Anna, was a chef and one of his talents was playing the violin, so during the social season they often parted ways and took temporary jobs in catering and entertaining.

In 1841
...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
The audiobook I listened to was published by Dreamscape Media LLC and narrated by Richard Allen.

Fantastic book. It reminded me of another narrative we had to read in college, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself. Similarly, the writing felt wordy and dry from time to time, but I chalk that up to the style of the time period and am really grateful that this book exists. The overall story came through very clearly, and I'm looking forward to watching the fil
...more
Maria Espadinha
Sep 03, 2015 Maria Espadinha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Existem múltiplas e variadas ficções sobre a escravatura nos USA. Mas estórias verdadeiras, narradas por alguém que as sofreu e viveu, não creio que haja outra para além desta ?!

Solomon Northup nasceu e viveu livre no Norte dos USA.
Um dia foi emboscado, raptado e vendido como escravo no Sul . E por lá permaneceu até ao dia em que reconquistou a liberdade que lhe fôra tão barbaramente roubada

Por um lado, esta é uma narrativa chocante, onde somos , como em muitas outras, confrontados com a força
...more
Connie
Jan 07, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

First I must note that I listened to the audio of this and am awfully glad. Louis Gossett, Jr brought Solomon Northup to life for me. His voice is brilliant. I am not sure I could have enjoyed reading this narrative as much as the language and the cadence is from a different time. The story is also from a different time and one that is a mark on history.

I should correct myself, as this is not a story....but a narrative. I was amazed that it disappeared for decades and Solomon's voic
...more
Yazeed AlMogren
Apr 01, 2016 Yazeed AlMogren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
هذا الكتاب يتضمن إحدى أفضل القصص التي تحدثت عن بؤس العبودية وقضية الرق في الولايات المتحدة عندما كانت منقسمة بين ولايات تجيز الإسترقاق وبين ولايات تحظر ذلك، القصة تتحدث عن رجل أسود ولد حرًا لأب حر عاش في ولاية نيويورك التي تحظر العبودية وأُختطف بحيلة العمل في السيرك على يد أشخاص طمعوا في بيعه في أحد الولايات الجنوبية والحصول على المال وكيف عانى هذا الرجل الحر بسبب لون بشرته بفقدانه لعائلته وعمله والعيش مع العبيد في مزارع القطن وقصب السكر في حياة تفتقر الى أبسط سبل العيش الكريمة لمدة 12 عامًا، نا ...more
Carol
3.5 Stars. Solomon Northup, a free man, survives a brutal twelve years after his capture into slavery and is finally able to procure his way back home through the diligence and persistence of one true friend. While a true story written in 1853, I sometimes found it unconvincing (not that I doubt it as fact) and difficult to connect with Solomon during the telling of this horrific time in his life perhaps bc of the narrator and/or writing style, I'm not sure? A good portion of the story is spent ...more
Michael
Oct 19, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This book was both painful and a joy to read. It was painful because of the reality that some humans were lawfully able to visit such violence and heartache on other humans for the purpose of monetary gain. The author did not dwell on the terrible, but also shared his knowledge about such things as preparing a field for the planting of cotton and sugar cane. Yes, he also told of the whippings and other abuses suffered by him and his fellow slaves.

The joy for me was the language used. People jus
...more
Pink
If this were fiction, I would probably rate it lower. But this is not fiction. This is the story of how a free man became enslaved for 12 years, in that awful period of American history. How this happened, what transpired during his slavery and how Solomon came to achieve freedom again were all fascinating and heartbreaking tales. Equally interesting is how this story came to be told - from the ghost writer who published the book just 3 months after Solomon was freed, to it's 20th century resurr ...more
Lawrence
WOW!! What a book! This is a must read! It's hard to imagine being taken away from your home and made a slave for 12 long years. It was a hard read, but again a must read.
Sherry Young
Sep 30, 2011 Sherry Young rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you are reading this review then you are most likely someone who is free to read what you choose and to live life how you please.

Imagine for a moment being kidnapped and sold into a life of forced labor, without the very liberties you have come to take for granted. You are no longer considered anything but someone's property, never knowing if you will ever see your family again...

This is the true story of Solomon Northup, a black man who was born free and who, by the mere color of his skin, w
...more
Kaye
Apr 20, 2014 Kaye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely incredible! I never imagined a slave narrative that could have been worst than Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs or William Wells Brown. Solomon Northup describes in graphic detail his kidnapping, repeatedly being sold off between slavers and the savagely horrific treatment he suffered for twelve years at the hands of his slavers near Louisiana's Red River. He details the immoral, unscrupulous and the demoralizing aspects of slavocracy as it occurred in the United States of America. ...more
Dan
Nov 03, 2013 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
12 Years a Slave is a compelling story written hastily in four months by white ghost writer David Wilson in 1853. The story of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping and subsequent slavery and ultimate rescue is nothing short of amazing. I’m surprised I never heard about it until the movie came out. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but decided to read the book because I was curious how this slave narrative compared to the many narratives I read in an African-American literature class I recently took.

I’m gue
...more
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Solomon Northup was a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs, New York. He is noted for having been kidnapped in 1841 when enticed with a job offer. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington, DC, they drugged him and sold him into slavery. From Washington, DC, he was transported to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner from Rapides Parish, Louisiana. After 12 ...more
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“What difference is there in the color of the soul?” 104 likes
“Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it.” 73 likes
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