In the early 1800’s Solomon Northrup was a free black man living in New England with his wife and two daughters. He played the violin for a living and was mostly happy and enjoyed his life.
One day, while traveling to New York he was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deepest part of the South. While there he worked as a slave for 12 years before he was able to find a way to get word out to his family and lawyers that he was there.
Not only is this story true, but it is written in his own words in an affectless manner that tells the story matter-of-fact, not shying away from the gruesomeness that was his life nor trying to make it seem more dramatic.
Northrup writes brilliantly from the heart so that every word tears the soul. His emotion is palpable on every page. He communicates a great deal of restraint and thought for a man who has been so mistreated, even expressing a minor hint of forgiveness for his tormentors:
“It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears that the rod is for the slave’s back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.”
And other times he calls the entire nation to repentance, calling out their hypocrisy because even though he lived as a free man in New England before his abduction he still was not allowed to vote and segregation was still a part of his life.
“…So we passed, handcuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington, through the Captial of a nation, whose theory of government, we are told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness! Hail! Columbia, happy land, indeed!”
This is one of the most powerful accounts of anything I have ever read and I would recommend it to everyone. You should read this, it will make you think like nothing else ever could. This is the kind of book that should be taught in schools instead of the meaningless literary humdrum that is more common.