Solomon Northup was born in the early 1800s in New York, and was born as a free man. He lived as a free man for over 30 years, until he was tricked into moving to Washington, D.C. by men offering him a job as a musician. Once he made it to D.C., he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, where he was forced to work on a plantation until he could make his escape. His family had no way of knowing where he was or if he was safe – he was on his own with no hope of escaping the circumstance.
In this harrowing memoir, Northrup describes the horrific conditions he and the other slaves lived in, the ways they were mistreated by their owners and were forced to mistreat one another, and the difficulty he had making his way out of slavery and back to his family. This tale is bleak, but eye-opening to the plights of slaves in the years leading up to the Civil War.
12 Years a Slave was a fast best-seller when it was published just 8 years before the Civil War, and is an integral text from the time period. This memoir was the basis for the 2013 Oscar-winning film of the same name.