Twelve Years a Slave Solomon Northup

Original front cover of Twelve Years a Slave

Historical Context

The success of the book at publication is due to several debates that were ensuing between the North and the South.

Debate over the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

Debate over Kansas.

Publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The Bigger Picture

White Editor Debates

Propaganda for Abolitionists

Film Adaptions

The Film

Pictures from Twelve Years a Slave (2013)

Discussion Questions

1. Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave employed the use of a white editor or “ghost writer,” David Wilson. From reading other African American narratives in this class and throughout your education, how do you think this use of a white editor impacted the message that Northup was trying to convey? Why did Northup decide to use a white editor when he was educated enough to write the story himself? How is a text affected when trying to represent the motives of two “authors”?

2. Solomon Northup was a free black man for 30 years before being enslaved for twelve unlike Austin Reed who was incarcerated since his childhood. How does this change a slave narrative? Is there a different perspective of slavery to be perceived from someone who has experienced freedom? He was educated before he was captured, so how does his education and knowledge benefit him throughout the text?

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