Solomon Northup was a free man in 1840’s New York. He was married and supported his family including 3 children. Looking to make some additional money, he joined 2 men playing his violin and woke up to discover he had been captured. He was sold into slavery and given the name of Platt.
The next 12 years were filled with whippings, hardship and hard work at the hands of a range of overseers and masters in Louisiana. Platt supported his fellow slaves, worked diligently and made money for his masters with his quick expertise and musical talent. He kept his true identity a secret after almost being beaten to death for revealing he had been a freeman yet always hoped for a reunion with his family.
This true story was interesting yet I did not love the narration. At times, there was too much detail – I learned more than I needed to about the planting and harvest of both cotton and sugar cane yet this book kept my attention during my commutes. Although I have read a number of books about slavery including The Book of Negroes (Lawrence Hill), Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) and The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead), it is still shocking to read about the inhumane treatment of men and women as well as the fact that slavery was accepted.
As Black History Month draws to a close, I have met my goal of reading 3 books sharing the perspective of people of colour. Twelve Years A Slave provided a pre-Civil War perspective and is said to have helped tilt the opinion on slavery. Half Blood Blues (Esi Edugyan) told the story of black jazz musicians during the days of WW2 in Berlin and France and Small Great Things (Jodi Picoult) provided a perspective of a current day nurse who ended up charged after providing care to the baby of a white supremacist.
This book has been made into a movie in 2013. It won 3 academy awards and I look forward to watching it now that I have listened to the book.