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Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup - Author

Ira Berlin - Introduction by

Henry Louis Gates - Editor

Henry Louis Gates - Afterword by

Steve McQueen - Foreword by

ePub eBook | $12.99 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9781101614679 | 288 pages | 31 Jul 2012 | Penguin Classics | 18 - AND UP
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“For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup’s tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement.” —Ira Berlin, from the Introduction

Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, Twelve Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation.

After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone as educated as Solomon Northup, or by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.


“For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup’s tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement.” —Ira Berlin, from the Introduction

“When I read [Twelve Years a Slave] for the first time, it was like the first time I read Anne Frank’s diary. And I wondered to myself, ‘Why isn’t this book on everyone’s bookshelf.’ . . . For me, it’s a classic. It should be in every school.” —Steve McQueen, director of the film adaptation of Twelve Years a Slave, in Entertainment Weekly

“Frightening, gripping and inspiring . . . Northup’s story seems almost biblical, structured as it is as a descent and resurrection narrative of a protagonist who, like Christ, was 33 at the time of his abduction. . . . Northup reminds us of the fragile nature of freedom in any human society and the harsh reality that whatever legal boundaries existed between so-called free states and slave states in 1841, no black man, woman or child was permanently safe.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Root

“A moving, vital testament to one of slavery’s ‘many thousands gone’ who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation. It is also a chilling insight into the ‘peculiar institution.’” Saturday Review



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