Twelve Years a Slave (Barnes & Noble Signature Editions)

Twelve Years a Slave (Barnes & Noble Signature Editions)

4.2 364
by Solomon Northup

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“In a stunning reversal of stereotype, he is often a man among beasts.”

—Eric Ashley Hairston, from the Introduction

Twelve Years a Slave, a chronicle of the amazing ordeal of Solomon Northup, a free African American kidnapped in the North and impressed into slavery in Louisiana, is one of the most compelling and detailed slave narratives

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“In a stunning reversal of stereotype, he is often a man among beasts.”

—Eric Ashley Hairston, from the Introduction

Twelve Years a Slave, a chronicle of the amazing ordeal of Solomon Northup, a free African American kidnapped in the North and impressed into slavery in Louisiana, is one of the most compelling and detailed slave narratives in existence. “There must have been some misapprehension—some unfortunate mistake,” writes Northup. “It could not be that a free citizen of New York, who had wronged no man, nor violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly.”

As an educated man, torn from freedom and plunged into slavery, he brings into exact clarity the life and labor of slaves in the antebellum American South, the complex economic choices and ironic moral concessions of slaveholding, and the calamitous effect of slavery on the foundations of civilization. Throughout his horrific imprisonment, Solomon Northup resists the urge to laud himself as an exemplary character or focus solely on his own experience, giving contemporary readers a remarkable and complex account of the lives of the slave community as a whole.

A bestseller when it was first published, Twelve Years a Slave remains today a stunning American odyssey.

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Editorial Reviews

Solomon Northup was born a free man in New York in 1808. In 1841 he was tricked, captured, and sold into slavery in Washington, D.C. Originally published in 1854, his account of 12 years spent as a slave on a series of Southern plantations became one of the most famous of the antebellum slave narratives. Republished in 1970 with an introduction by Philip Foner, the book has again been "replicated" by Dover with all the original documentation and illustrations. Northup's story was taken down by David Wilson in the year following his rescue from a Louisiana plantation. Since Northup was a literate Northerner and understood the values of freedom, his testimony was highly prized by Abolitionists. Not only did his book sell 25,000 copies in the year it was published, it was used to support Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, since it gave a description of plantation life very much like one that Stowe had described. Twelve Years a Slave is highly readable and well paced. It provides a firsthand account of slave auctions, good masters, bad masters, slave beatings, escape attempts, black community life within the plantation system and the legal system that permitted Northup's eventual rescue. Highly recommended. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1970, Dover, 336p, illus, 22cm, 99-089488, $8.95. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Patricia A. Moore; Academic Resource Ctr., Emmanuel College, Boston, MA (retired), March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
Born a free man in New York in 1808, Solomon Northrup was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841. He spent the next 12 years as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. After regaining his freedom in 1853, he published this gripping autobiographical account of his captivity. As an educated man, he was able to present a detailed and accurate picture of slave life and plantation society, from simultaneous outsider and insider perspectives. This is an unabridged Dover republication of the work first reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, in 1970. The original edition was published by Derby and Miller, Auburn, New York, 1853. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"A moving, vital testament." —-Saturday Review

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Product Details

Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
Barnes & Noble Signature Editions
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Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup’s tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement.” —Ira Berlin, from the Introduction

“A moving, vital testament to one of slavery’s ‘many thousands gone’ who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation. It is also a chilling insight into the ‘peculiar institution.’” Saturday Review

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Twelve Years a Slave 4.2 out of 5 based on 3 ratings. 364 reviews.
Max23 More than 1 year ago
This book was about the life and Journey of Solomon Northup, who unfortunately was stolen from freedom and made a slave. Born in New York State in 1808 as a free man, he was well educated, learned how to swim (which is very rare to find in an African American at the time) and an exceptional worker. But in 1841 he was kidnapped in Washington D.C. where he was forced to work as a slave for the next twelve years on a Louisiana cotton plantation. This book is definitely going on my list of favorite books. It has such a detailed and vivid description of his experience that I almost felt like I was there with him. He incorporates sadness, depression,and death with happiness, excitement, and love. This is sometimes very hard to achieve when writing about slavery but somehow he brought it all together in the best of ways. One of my major "likes" about this book was that he showed a side of slavery that doesn't get recognized all too often; compassion. Solomon made friends with other slaves that stood by him and showed him sympathy whenever he needed it. But the major shocker is that one of his many masters, a man named Ford, treated Solomon with respect and even said that he was better than a white man (Tibeat), right to his face. Thats when I started to adore this book and wanted to keep on reading. My only real "dislike" was that after a while, not much was happening besides him being a slave and going through what they normal experienced, but that did not stop the fact that is was a great book. This book gives detailed descriptions of the fear, brutality, and hardships that slaves went through which makes it a must read book because people should know the history of our country and recognize the ones who were there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book simply tells the story from the perspective of Solomon Northup. He successfully left out any preconceptions, assumptions and told the story from what he actually witnessed, heard, felt and thought. I could not put the book down reading about his feelings and thoughts on this horrific time in his life. A compelling story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I grew up in the 60's and 70's near the area in which Northup was enslaved. I am amazed that such brutality once was accepted, even condoned, so near the peaceful places where I experienced childhood and young adulthood. We have much to learn from his story. I wish that this book had been required reading in our mandatory Junior High Lousiana History class, which typically presented only superficial discussions of slavery in our state.
Puli More than 1 year ago
I really knew nothing about live as a slave, or even life during that time period. I found the book fascinating and informative. The author is very detailed in his descriptions, so you can easily picture what he is describing. He was a great observer, and even adds some wry humor here and there. Hearing his thoughts as he goes through the different situations really helps you understand what it must have been like. Knowing that it is a true story makes it all the more compelling. It gave insight into lots of questions I had about life as a slave- how aware of their situation were they, why didn't they just escape, what kinds of freedoms did they really have, were all owners cruel, how could otherwise good people own slaves, what happened when slaves were smarter than their masters, how did they cope with families being separated? I really enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it. One thing I would like to know - did any of the author's former owners eve read the book, and what did they think?
Lolo10 More than 1 year ago
I've known of this story for many years. Not only bc it's depicting our history, but it's depicting my family's history. I'm Solomon Northup's 4x's great granddaughter, and I can't tell how completely proud and honored I am that my grandfather's story is getting so much recognition. The movie brought light to the book, which I'm so thrilled to see. The book is now being distributed to many schools. My family's history is making history. And I am so absolutely honored to be of the blood of this strong and intelligent man. The book is well written and the story is well detailed. If you've seen the movie, please read the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was presented in a moving way. I had no idea that free men were kidnapped and taken as slaves Everyone should read this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of Solomon Northup's life, as a free man, a slave and then his struggle for justice against his kidnapper's, is a horrifying and detailed narrative. Unfortunately, his story is similar to other African Americans during this period of history. His strong will to fight, literally against a particular master, at any cost demonstrates his desire to take a stand against wrong doers. An attempt to make more money for his family cost him twelve years of freedom, pain and enslavement. I could not stop reading this book after I started. His words are realistically descriptive and brings the reader into the pages of the book.
nite-owlCP More than 1 year ago
This is an amaedzing true story of Solomon Northup who was born in the free state of New York. People befriended him and he is taken to Washington, DC under false prentences. He is kidnapped and sent to Louisiana to the cotton plantations. How Solomon kept the faith and endured one can only believe he was made up of a fabric of his fore fathers. He knew how to make the most of interacting with the other slaves and the plantation owners. Solomon Northup wasn't freed until after 12 years. This book should be manaditory reading for every school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not much of a reader. I haven't read a book since elementary school; I'm 25 now. Believe me when I tell you I couldn't put this book down. I created a Barnes and Noble account solely to post this review. I highly recommend this book!!! It is a must read!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read about 6 books dealing with slavery such as Booker T. Washington, H. Tubman, and F. Douglas,and I must say that I have enjoyed this title the best. Solomen gives an inside experience of slavery that I never knew existed.
LasVegasMia More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing account of Solomon Northup’s 12 years as a slave. Solomon was born a free man but was kidnapped and tricked into slavery and spent the next 12 years as a slave on a Louisiana plantation. Solomon was well educated and it shows in his writing. I give this book my highest praise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This artfully written masterpiece is raw in its honesty and disturbingly revealing about America's tragic history.
lvsbwy More than 1 year ago
Powerful auto-biography! Was very well-written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Ibelis More than 1 year ago
Its a phenomenal book. Its a profound visual of what life was as a slave and his endurance through it all. Excellent! Please read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the story was compelling and it was not hard for me to believe considering my parents are both from Louisanna. Have heard so many of these stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have not seen the movie. But reading this book is a must for white, blacks, and any other nationailty. Raceisum should not ever be in a person's mind or vocabulary The saying goes, walk in my shoes for a day. Or no shoes. God made us to be what He wants us to be. Follow His leading and be blessed you live in freedom. Be sorrowful for those that don't have and be there to help if you are able.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was assigned to read a memoir for my AP Language & Composition class, so I decided that, due to the movie version’s critical success, it would be the perfect opportunity to read 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup. Because the memoir was written in the 1800s, I was apprehensive at first that the language would be difficult to follow. However, I was pleased to see that Northrup used words that are still commonly used today. In addition to having accessible diction, the book was easy to read because it was very fast-paced; Northrup wasted few pages before he describes being kidnapped by the men who would sell him into slavery. He was brutally honest about the realities of slavery and confirmed many of the details that basic history classes only brush upon. His honesty made 12 Years a Slave a truly emotional memoir and had me engrossed in the story from cover to cover. While those who enjoy history should undoubtedly add this book to their shelves, I think it would appeal any other teen or adult as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First off were you there to see or go through it.? You have no idea of how these people were treated but i do believe it to be true after what happened to my ansestors the cherokee indians taken from their land during the civil war days and were made to walk what was later called the trail of tears i have a picture of myself standing in front of the bronze plack telling the story when i was back in Mo, going thru the ozarks, no i do not believe for a minute this book is lies but i think in the minds of some this could bring the thought of racisim into thought only because they look back on how their own people were treated and in some instances still feel treated look up your own history and you might have a different thought hopefully gain the knowledge it takes to be humble and realize civil war era was quite different than now
JEGB More than 1 year ago
A first hand account during our darkest time in america history. Its shows the good and bad in people. Read it!
Anon-M More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie, then read the book. The book gave some insight that was not in the movie (even the flashback scenes). There were so many different copies online that I was uncertain which I should choose to read. It was quite interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Should I read his book? Please type a reveiw saying yes or no. I think it looks like a good book because of the cover. But you never know! As people akways say, you should never judge a book by it's cover! Anyway please post a reasponse saying hes or no to if I should read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slavery was a horrible thing. Read the book but will not watch the movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It covers the subject very well. There is a lot of evil people out there. No one should have been treated like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be very careful if you buy this as a Nook e book. . My e book came as very, very small print. The B&N store could not change it either. B&N work do NOTHING to reimburse my money. To bad, so sad was their  response. I was able to read it with my iPad somewhat. Still small print but readable. Very good book however.