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Twelve Years a Slave

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  30,148 ratings  ·  3,053 reviews
In this riveting true story, Academy Award winner Louis Gossett, Jr., masterfully transports us to 1840s New York, Louisiana,and Washington, DC, to experience the kidnapping and twelve-year bondage of Solomon Northup, a free man of color. Published in 1853, this account was a bombshell in the national debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War and helped tilt public o ...more
Audio CD, 7 pages
Published June 1st 2013 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1853)
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Mark I'm not sure I understand the question, but there are over 3,000 reviews on Goodreads. If you mean "professional critics"... I don't know.

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Brian
Aug 17, 2014 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Petra 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
“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
Cheryl
Authors writing about a life often fall into the established pattern of writing chronologically with dates, awards, and family relationships. But it is one event or circumstance that is the essence of a life, and it is this crossroad that is most interesting to a reader. Especially, I believe, if the event captures a era.

Soloman Northup was a free man, born to an emancipated Negro slave. He lived a simple, uneventful life with his wife and children in Upstate New York until the Spring of 1841 wh
...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
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.
Lela
"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
Ken Moten
Jan 11, 2014 Ken Moten rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Elizabeth
“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
Dorothea
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
Bookworm Sean
“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
Angela
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
Connie
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
Sherry Young
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
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
Michael
Oct 19, 2014 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Kaye
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
Nicole~
Is it fit or can it bear the shock
Of rational discussion, that a man
Compounded and made up, like other men,
Of elements tumultuous, in whom lust
And folly in as ample measure meet,
As in the bosom of the slave he rules,
Should be a despot absolute, and boast
Himself the only freemen of his land?

-Cowper
Poem from the original 1853 publication.


Solomon Northup was a free citizen of New York State when he was abducted and sold into slavery in 1841. He went from the slave trading pens of Washington an
...more
Dan
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
Camille
While reading this novel, I often thought about what I learned about slavery in school and the many films I've seen on the subject, most notably, the television series Roots , which is probably most of our first visual representation of a slaves' life – but I thought, "Noooo, they got it wrong! Slavery was 50 times worst than any representation I've ever seen on a film."

Solomon Northup, was a free born, African America man living in New York state in the early 1800s. He had a wife, three childre
...more
Ashley
My Adoptive father Daniel (Dannyy) is a very Remarkable man, He has not been rich, famous, Not really done anything impediment family and friends will ever know of. But this Truly Remarkable man taught me from a very early age (I was moved into his house at 2 1/2, adopted at 3) that people are people, and there is no one that can take that from any one person. This is a man who went to Vietnam and fought alongside black, white, north, south, easterners, and west. They were all MEN. Like I heard ...more
HuhWhat
(BUDDY READ WITH MARGARET)

Twelve years a slave is Solomon Northrup’s account of his kidnapping and years spent as a slave in mid 19th century America. I have to say I felt a bit awkward reading this, there was this awareness of me stepping into the worst experience of his life. I kept picturing him hunched over a wooden table getting all this out, rehashing all this awfulness. And trust me, it was awful. He was born a freeman in the North so while he did have to deal with being a second class ci
...more
Inaniel
Give little people power over others and they will become tyrants.
This is a horrible story. So sad. Full of cold hate, powerlessness, injustice, stupidity, grief, greed and the desire for power. Selling and buying real people. Destroying their lifes just because you can. Such a dirty business!
I found it interesting to learn that there was a time when some states legalized slavery and others didn't. And what this meant for trade and travel. Awful.
Renee
A very, very good read. Amazing that it was written over 150 years ago, and is still very readable. Interesting enough, there is none of the classic slave vernacular in this read. Is it only fiction tales of slavery that use the vernacular?

Twelve Years a Slave is the true account of Solomon Northup, a free person of color, that is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south. The story is articulate and truthful. Solomon gives credit where due, to white or black, and speaks of his personal exper
...more
Melissa Jeter

I keep wondering why this story should resurface at this time. After digging around on the Library of Congress website, I found several other books written by people who had been enslaved and later free. Perhaps, it is because this book shows a free Black man and his first-hand experience with the institution of slavery after being born free. Solomon Northrup tells his story in vivid detail. I listened to this book, as to get ready for the movie. I hope the movie lives up to the words of Northru
...more
Diane S.
Written in 1853 this is a true story of a free black man, basically kidnapped and sold into slavery. My first impression of this book was how wonderfully well it is written. My second was to note how dispassionately this story was told, as if the author had to emotionally distance himself in order to tell his story. So hard to read some of these events, but he also tells of good owners as well as those that were horrible.

Have read that when this book was first published it caused barely a stir a
...more
Denise Gianelli
This is an amazing, heart wrenching book, but a must read! It is a haunting story that will stay with you for a long time. As I read this story of Solomon Northup I was deeply saddened by the way that some humans treated other human beings with such outright abuse and neglect. Most of the slave owners were only interested in making money and treated their slaves worse than animals. This quote is memorable to me. " it is not the fault of the slave holder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fau ...more
Vanessa
I didn't particularly enjoy this book. I found the narrative dull, the thoughts were lacking emotion and the ending too abrupt.
I've read other books on slavery and always found them to be an emotional read. E.g. March by Geraldine Brooks and The Long Song by Andrea Levy. I'd certainly recommend these as a thought provoking read rather than this book.
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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?” 70 likes
“Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it.” 48 likes
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