12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup
By Frederick M. Coffin (engraved by Nathaniel Orr) – Solomon Northup (1855) Twelve Years a Slave, Public Domain

My peers and I had the opportunity to watch the film, 12 Years a Slave, in Mr. William’s history class.

This historical film dramatizes the issue of slavery in pre-Civil War America. The main character, Solomon Northup, a violin player, is a free black man from upstate New York living with his family in the year 1841. When Solomon travels to Washington, D.C. with two men for a potential increase in his salary, he is drugged by those two men and was transferred to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is sold from one slave owner to another, until he is sold to the cruel, aggressive, and gradually insane slave owner Edwin Epps.

As the days turn into months and months bleed into years, Solomon struggles to maintain his dignity and keep his identity as he endures abuse and hardships, such as having to answer to a new name and being whipped daily. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, he meets a Canadian abolitionist who will forever alter his life.

The film details the horrific and unforgettable conditions that African-Americans went through while they were slaves. One slave in particular named Patsey, a female slave at the Epps plantation, was constantly taken advantage of and abused by Edwin Epps, who was obsessed with her, but also hated her at the same time, making Epps an uncontrollable psychopath. His wife, Mistress Epps, jealous about the attention that Patsey was receiving, also abused her and urged her husband to “punish her” if she did anything wrong.

12 Years a Slave is an unforgettable film and a landmark of Hollywood cinema.

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