Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Published July 12, 2021

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Book info

  • Title Twelve Years a Slave
  • Author Solomon Northup
  • Year 1853
  • Genre Memoir

Northup, who was a free African American living in Saratoga, New York, had no idea what was in store for him when he was approached by two circus promoters with an offer of a brief high paying job as a musician with their traveling circus. A skilled violinist, Solomon gladly accepted the offer and traveled with the two men to Washington, D.C. When he awoke one morning drugged and bound in a cell for slaves he discovered the men’s true intentions of selling him into slavery. What followed was twelve years of bondage during which Northup experienced the gamut of both kindness and cruelty afforded to slaves in the Southern United States just prior to the American Civil War.


I’m aware of, but have not seen, the movie adaptation of this, so dived straight into the source material instead. It’s such a harrowing story, highlighting once again the horrific nature of slavery, how awful human beings can be to each other for no good reason, and how no one is safe. At some points, I had to pause reading because it was just too awful, but it was worth pushing on to have a little bit of redemption at the end. Northup tells the story very stoically, factually, from moment to moment, and although you can tell he’s holding the true emotion of it back, you still get a feel for how these events affected him. Certainly an important read.

Rating: 4 / 5

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