Tag Archives: Solomon Northrup

Solomon Northup: Farmer

I read Solomon Northrup’s personal account of slaverylong enough ago that I decided to pick it up again in light of having seen the movie. It’s hard not to be impressed with how close the movie actually follows the narrative, but specific choices made by director Steve McQueen stand out. Consider this passage from very early in the book:

With the return of spring, Anne and myself conceived the project of taking a farm in the neighborhood. I had been accustomed from earliest youth to agricultural labors, and it was an occupation congenial to my tastes. I accordingly entered into arrangements for a part of the old Alden farm, on which my father formerly resided. With one cow, one swine, a yoke of fine oxen I had lately purchased of Lewis Brown, in Hartford, and other personal property and effects, we proceeded to our new home in Kingsbury. That year I planted twenty-five acres of corn, sowed large fields of oats, and commenced farming upon as large a scale as my utmost means would permit. Anne was diligent about the house affairs, while I toiled laboriously in the field. (p. 9)

Those of you who’ve seen the movie already know that McQueen chose to begin his story with the Northrup family already established in Saratoga Springs, New York. Solomon is shown well dressed and walking in a park with an individual that he is unable to identify in his narrative, when he is approached by two strangers who were ultimately responsible for his kidnapping and enslavement. Northrup’s life prior to this is ignored entirely. Continue reading

12 Years a Slave in Theatres Now

12 Years a SlaveLike many of you I am very much looking forward to seeing this movie. It looks like Hollywood’s sesquicentennial trifecta will go down with Lincoln, Django Unchained, and now 12 Years a Slave. These three movies collectively have both reflected and come to define current thinking about- and memory of the Civil War Era.

This image alone gives me hope that the movie will be both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. In doing so, let’s hope it challenge many of the public’s assumptions about the “peculiar institution.”

Anyone who has read Solomon Northrup’s narrative will agree that his story is worthy of Hollywood’s attention, but it is interesting that it beat Frederick Douglass’s much more popular account of slavery and freedom to the big screen.