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222 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Shall Set You Free of Lies
Growing up in the North,I had always found it hard to imagine that slavery not only existed in this country,but flourished.Through the years,I have read many an autobiography or history book concerning slavery and thought I knew it all. And yet I was blind.
Until I read Solomon Northrup's "12 Years a Slave." Where has this book been? It is a masterpiece of history,of...
Published 13 months ago by Gwennyth

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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Northup's book is GREAT; but this is a shoddy edition
The book itself is great -- absolutely wonderful. But I see that all sorts of folks have rushed it into print in the last month or two, to cash in on the film (which is also great) - This edition is quite cheap and shabby; it doesn't even include page numbers. I'd recommend one of the other editions (although some of them are probably also shabby... but at least look for...
Published 11 months ago by JC 519


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222 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Shall Set You Free of Lies, October 17, 2013
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This review is from: 12 Years a Slave (Paperback)
Growing up in the North,I had always found it hard to imagine that slavery not only existed in this country,but flourished.Through the years,I have read many an autobiography or history book concerning slavery and thought I knew it all. And yet I was blind.
Until I read Solomon Northrup's "12 Years a Slave." Where has this book been? It is a masterpiece of history,of one man,one free man's life. A true picture of 'The Old South'.
Mr. Northrup was a free black man with a beautiful wife and two daughters living in Saratoga,NY. He was lured from his home by slave traders who specialized in the awful practice of kidnapping free black citizens and selling them into slavery. Torn from his home and family,Mr.Northrup endured the worst that can happen to a human being,and still live.
And yet,he remained fair and honest,never stooping to the level some of his white masters did.
I am not going to rewrite the book in this review because I recommend reading it for yourself. Slavery was and is a vile institution.
Solomon Northrup is my new inspiration.
This book will shock you. But you will be the better for having read it.
My highest of fives.
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167 of 172 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary book, but there are better versions on Kindle, October 12, 2013
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As slave stories go, this one is, in my view, without peer. Northup's s captivating tale -- which has gained attention because of the movie that shares the book's title -- is told in exacting detail with an easy prose. He sets the stage masterfully, describing people and places before proceeding into the narrative. Unlike works of fiction, this book is so compelling because, by all accounts, it is true. There is no polemical axe to grind, as with Uncle Tom (a novel at one point wryly referenced by Northup). Here you see both the brutality of slavery and the moments of kindness by slaves and even some slave owners. Solomon tells the story with clarity and intelligence.

The free versions on other sites I found were pretty poorly formatted, so spending a dollar for a polished version on Amazon is worthwhile, but this one is not the best of them. Granted, the book is formatted adequately, and any typographical errors in this version seem to be simple reproductions of the original.

However, the supporting material is a letdown. I read the version that includes the introduction by novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez. That introduction is borderline insulting, as it makes only a weak attempt to separate accounts with fictional elements like Roots from an authentic account like this one. Worse still, Perkins-Valdez can't resist indulging in repeatedly referencing her own recently released slave novel, even going so far as to quote herself. There are almost no historical elements to this version beyond the main book -- no mention of Northup after the book, no mention of he writer who helped him pen the book, nothing. There is more information on the writer of the introduction than there is the author. One other oddity worth mentioning: the original book's preface -- the one done by the man who helped Northup write the book -- has been curiously excised from this version too. That makes this version something less than complete.

For those looking for a better version, you might consider Twelve Years a Slave - Enhanced Edition by Dr. Sue Eakin Based on a Lifetime Project. New Info, Images, Maps, which contains a robust amount of supporting material and, better still, is right now the same cost as this version.
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132 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome indeed, Please Read This Book!, July 3, 2000
By A Customer
I read this entire book in one day. I could not put it down. I came across it while trying to learn more about my town. I was in awe after realizing that all this occured some 15 miles from where I now live. I believe this book would make an excellent movie. The way this free black man was taken and sold into salvery is so sad and if I had not been looking into old new paper articles around the area I would have not believed this story. SO many people want to forget about the history of black people but they shouldn't. I don't think anyone can walk away after reading this book and not feel some sort of compassion for the all the souls lost to slavery.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Northup's book is GREAT; but this is a shoddy edition, December 3, 2013
By 
JC 519 "JC" (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
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The book itself is great -- absolutely wonderful. But I see that all sorts of folks have rushed it into print in the last month or two, to cash in on the film (which is also great) - This edition is quite cheap and shabby; it doesn't even include page numbers. I'd recommend one of the other editions (although some of them are probably also shabby... but at least look for one from a reputable publisher. And really: the book itself should be considered a classic. It's beautifully written, and powerful in its descriptions and insights.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A painful, enraging read in American and Louisiana history, September 18, 2001
By 
Haiyu (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
This is the story of Solomon Northup, in his own words, a citizen of New York kidnapped in 1841 and taken to Louisiana as a slave, where he was found twelve years later on a cotton plantation near the Red River. It is a story that will break your heart as Solomon was torn away from his family for over a decade. According to a quote from 1853, when Solomon first published his memoirs, "Think of it: For thirty years a man, with all a man's hopes, fears and aspirations--with a wife and children to call him by the endearing names of husband and father--with a home, humble it may be, but still a home...then for twelve years a thing, a chattel personal, classed with mules and horses. ...Oh! it is horrible. It chills the blood to think that such are." And indeed, this story will both chill--and boil--your blood.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope Born Out of Despair, January 20, 2007
By 
Robert W. Kellemen "Doc. K." (Crown Point, IN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Solomon Northup's slave narrative follows in the line of scores of other enlightening first-hand accounts of African American enslavement. What makes Northrup's account so unique is the fact that he was free when kidnapped and enslaved.

His harrowing description of his kidnapping in Washington, D. C., and of his fellow kidnappees, will melt the hardest heart. Yet, his interactions with other abducted African Americans also portrays the beauty and power of shared sorrow.

Another fascinating distinction found in "Twelve Years a Slave" is Northrup's almost uncanny ability to fairly depict his slave owners. In some cases, he ruthlessly exposes the one-dimensional ruthlessness of cruel masters. Yet, in one case, with his owner Pastor Ford (yes, Pastor), he calls Ford one of the most godly, caring, Christians he has ever known. He describes the biblical preaching and personal ministry that Ford provided to him. It is difficult for us today to see how the hypocrisy of a slave-owning Pastor could occur. But for Northrup, an intelligent, educated, articulate man, who could be blistering in his verbal attack on slavers, Ford was not a one-dimensional man. He was flawed, yet could still display admirable attributes.

"Twelve Years a Slave" is perhaps the most important first-hand account of enslavement ever written. The end of the story, which I will not ruin, must be read. Of course, with riveting writing like this, only the rare reader would dare stop before the end of the journey.

Reviwer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Soul Physicians, and Spiritual Friends.
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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Rare First Hand Account of American Slavery, October 18, 2013
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This review is from: 12 Years a Slave (Paperback)
Although apparently slave narratives existed toward the end of the antebellum period, they were rare. For the simple reason that lifetime slavery did not afford the opportunity for first-hand accounts to be written. And, with the teaching of reading and writing illegal in most Southern states, few bondsmen possessed the ability to communicate their stories through the written word in any event.

Solomon Northup was well educated and was afforded the liberty to write his story. Tragically, this free Negro - born free, educated and a master violinist - was lured from his New York home to Washington D.C. on a promise of employment as a violinist with a show. Drugged in our capital city - very much a southern city fully in support of slavery - Northup woke in a slave pen and soon was shipped south to New Orleans and sold into bondage.

His initial attempt to tell his DC captors he was a free man were met with a promise of death if he spoke of that to anyone. Representing a substantial investment to his owners (he had several), his talk of being a free Negro or display of his education would have invited severe punishment or death. Certainly the southern planters and contractor who owned him at various times would not have cared anyway having shelled out significant money for his purchase.

For twelve years Northup lived the life of a slave. This account is riveting. The witness to the events of slavery - the selling process, vicious whipping and being run to ground by dogs, back-breaking labor, escape attempts, rape of favorite females who caught an owner's lustful look and all of the other atrocious practices of America's "peculiar institution," are dramatic and bring home an appreciation of what it meant to a slave to be a slave far beyond what any general history of the institution can achieve. Northup also provides interesting accounts of the cotton harvesting and packaging process as well as how sugar cane plantations operated as well as general accounts of how slavery was organized and managed in the places to which he was held.

Northup is a skilled writer. His presentation of his story - and the events are so riveting that they could almost stand on their own without a narrative - makes this a very well written as well as important narrative. Although written in conventions common to the era - the author sometimes addresses the reader directly and gives commentary that current writers would feel redundant - this is a very readable and enthralling account of what slavery was probably like for many who endured it. Highly recommended.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars These reviews are not what they seem, February 13, 2014
If one takes the time to check out what books the reviewers actually are commenting on, they would find out that the reviews posted on this book and all others of the same or similar title are not reviews of the book shown on the page. None of the high star ratings apply to this book created by Open Road Media. This is a poor quality rendition of the book. Amazon needs to apply the reviews received to the books actually read by the reviewer and maybe folks wouldn't get burned buying cheap, photocopied or ocr'd junk like this. If enough dissatisfied customers complained, maybe they would get the idea and stop posting false and misleading reviews on books.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a beautifully written memoir read by Louis Gossett Jr., January 31, 2014
This is the harrowing account of a free black man who was kidnapped. His free papers were stolen, he was viciously beaten into submission and then transported to plantations in the south as a slave. His whereabouts were unknown to any and all who could free him. The idea that any man, of any color, or any background, could be captured and penned, treated like no more than a brute animal, should have been, then and surely now, nothing short of anathema to any breathing human being. Ignorance could not be a legitimate excuse, anymore than it could have been during the Holocaust. Myself, I am at a loss to understand why an economy driven by slaves would be exalted, why greed would be elevated to heights higher than human dignity.
Man’s inhumanity to man, man’s ability to turn a blind eye to human suffering for monetary gain, will render the reader speechless and horrified. As a Jew whose history is steeped in slavery, I felt personally affected by his plight and angered to the point of distraction, because there is absolutely nothing anyone can do today to reverse the effects of the terrible injustice imposed upon people, simply because of their color. They were kept illiterate, forbidden to improve their station in life, beaten violently for the slightest infractions, by people who would not have wanted such a life for themselves or anyone they associated with, and yet, they turned a blind eye to accumulate the all-mighty dollar. Those who hated, taught their offspring to hate. Those who hated, hired overseers who hated. Those who hated often got away unscathed. Justice was usually not served for the black man. No matter how many times one reads about slavery, it is impossible to get used to the idea that human trafficking existed in this country with very little opposition, for many years, and today, still exists in other avenues of the culture.
The successful economy of the plantation depended upon slavery, but while the South flourished, the slaves did not. They worked until their deaths, without hope of freedom or any basic civil rights. In this book, there is a definitive description of the life of a slave, by a man who walked in those shoes. No man or woman could possibly begin to understand the horror of a slave’s existence, the helplessness, the shame, the humiliation, the human suffering, unless they walked in those shoes, themselves. The reader will come to understand, more fully, how cruel and barbaric the practice was and will understand why it has been so hard, for those enslaved and their descendants, to achieve success, even today.
Families were torn asunder, children were separated from mothers, husbands from wives, friends from friends, and then subjected to abuse, beatings, rape, overwork, starvation, unlivable living conditions, and brutal masters, until they were completely subdued and weakened, unable to defend themselves, unable to change their circumstances, unable to do anything but acquiesce or die.
From Solomon’s descriptions of the despicable treatment of the slaves, as if they were less than human, lower than animals in bondage, made to respond like automatons, the reader will come to understand how strong these people had to be, mentally and physically, in order to withstand so much cruelty and exploitation, in order not to succumb. One will wonder why they would even want to live under such conditions, yet they found a way to find enjoyment and pleasure in the few moments they could share together, on holidays, in evenings, in moments when they were alone. They managed to create communities for themselves, even under such horrendous circumstances. Solomon makes it a point of saying that not all masters were cruel. He often found goodness in unexpected places. He, himself, was sometimes forced to be cruel to his friends and fellow slaves, forced to lose his own humanity by joining forces with the masters in order to avoid his own abuse and beatings. His plight, during his years as a slave, when he was required to whip fellow slaves, reminded me of that of the Kapos, during the Holocaust. Kapos were prisoners who meted out the justice and punishment upon other prisoners, for their Nazi captors. Were they co-conspirators or simply saving their own skins? It is an ethical conundrum.
Perhaps not all masters were the same, but all owned their slaves and valued them more for their purchase or resale price and their productivity, rather than for their lives. Some slaves, realizing they would never be free, tried to escape. When caught, the punishment was inhuman. They were whipped beyond comprehension or murdered. Although many tried hard to please their masters, they were often caught between the petty jealousies of the master and the mistress, neither willing to understand that a slave had no choice but to do what they were told, that they had no free will. There was no safety for them. There were no defenders of their plight.
Simply reading about the beatings, often beyond human endurance, made my skin crawl, made me want to find those barbaric, immoral, insensitive savages who treated other human beings so maliciously, though they are long gone. These poor victims had no recourse whatsoever. The mercilessness of the owners and the overseers leaves the reader aghast and hoping there is an afterlife where these people do get their just desserts. They were totally selfish and cold-blooded, pitiless and callous. There are simply no adequate words to describe that blight upon our history.
The years of beatings and abuse never broke Solomon’s spirit; he saw good qualities in almost everyone he met and always maintained a positive attitude, hoping to be free again.
In this memoir, he presents a clear, concise description of slavery from a slave’s vantage point. His daily life was one of monotonous, unending labor and fear. Solomon was luckier than most. He played the violin and could entertain plantation owners, occasionally escaping the toil of his fellow slaves. He was clever and could build and repair most things, unlike the vast majority of slaves who were kept totally imprisoned by their forced life of ignorance. He was therefore, more valued. He knew of the outside world, while they knew of no other than the world of master and slave. He lived to go from his capture and captivity to freedom and his wife and family. He lived to try and see the worst of these slave traders cringe in fear, but not, unfortunately, brought to justice. Even though he was a free man in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the world, he was still subservient, still second class. Once free, I read that he lectured on his experiences and also worked on behalf of the cause to abolish slavery and to aid other slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad.
The descriptions of the cultivation and picking of the cotton and the process of planting and cutting of the sugar cane, as well as the explanation of how some of the crude equipment worked, was sometimes tedious, and that was the only drawback I could find in this beautifully written memoir, read by Louis Gossett Jr.
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67 of 83 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Only The Original Narative, September 1, 2013
By 
Claude F LeSage (Greenwell Springs,, LA, US) - See all my reviews
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While the story is wonderful, this version of the book is the only the original pubic domain text available on Google and written in the 1850's, and it doesn't have the many extras of other books. Some versions, like one I use for my students, are written by prominent historians and provide in-depth insights and historical context, pictures, and extras. There is one written by a Harvard professor and I especially like the one written by Dr. Sue Eakin, the lady who discovered the story who lived in the exact location where the story took place. Authentication of the story became Dr. Eakin's lifetime story according to her website, which has many images and extras, including audio clips of the story performed by the amazing Louis Gossett Jr (remember him from Roots?). There is also a supporting book by a man named David Fiske that offers interesting details on Solomon Northup's life, but his version doesn't include Solomon's narrative -- only supporting info.
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12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave by Eric Ashley Hairston (Paperback - September 8, 2013)
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