First published in 1853, Twelve Years a Slave is the narrative of Solomon Northup’s experience as a freeman sold into slavery, having spent twelve years in bondage before finally escaping. Northup’s memoir reveals unimaginable details, detailing the slave markets and horrors of life on a plantation from the perspective of a man who lived more than thirty years as a free person before being forcibly enslaved.
Written in the year after Northup was freed and published in the wake of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Northup’s story was quickly taken up by abolitionist groups and news organizations as part of the fight against slavery.
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