Nineteen Years A Slave By Solomon Northup

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Twelve Years a Slave is a 1853 narrative memoir written by Solomon Northup and later adapted into the 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave. This compelling narrative contains two major themes: race and slavery. Each of these concepts is historically relevant in creating a stereotype of African Americans as uneducated lower-class citizens. “Hundreds of blacks lost their freedom through the operation of kidnapping rings,” and in 1841 Northup fell victim to one. Northup had taken to the violin at a very young age, Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton are introduced to Northup and inquire about his talent. These men offer him a high-paying job playing in their circus; Northup readily agrees. Once in Washington and having gained his trust, the men take Northup to dinner and drug him. The next morning he wakes “sitting upon a low bench, made of rough boards, and without coat or hat,” his hands and ankles chained. This marks the end of Northup’s freedom and the beginning of Platte’s servitude. (Platte is the slave name he was given to deny him his true identity.) Northup’s servitude begins at William Ford’s plantation where he is closely watched by the overseer Tibeats. As Northup slowly earns Ford’s favor he inadvertently insults Tibeats’ pride. Extremely valuable to poor whites was class-power and pride and Tibeats does not shrink from Northup. When Tibeats tries to regain his pride by nearly hanging Northup, Northup fights back. This was a taboo in this time period; one could fight only
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