Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup is a memoir of a black man who was born free in New York state but kidnapped, sold into slavery and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before the American Civil War. He provided details of slave markets in Washington, DC, as well as describing at length cotton cultivation on major plantations in Louisiana.
It is from this compelling true story that director Steve McQueen has made an increditble movie with the goal making this book required reading in every history class where the subject of slavery is even touched upon to give black and white children a early understanding of not only the brutality of slavery but the unresolved relationship today between black and white people on a global basis where ever slavery existed.
In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty at the hands of a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.
On a personal note, this was one of the most compelling movies I've ever seen about the strength, resilience, tenacity and divine guidance of our ancestors. It not only gives perspective about the past, it also gives context about the social and political plight that Black people face globally. It further gives insight to the educational and economic disparities and barriers that are intentionally in place to restrict and limit Black people today. As I watch the slave master during this movie reading passages in the bible to justify his inhumane cruelty, I was reminded of a passage that Malcolm X wrote:
Malcolm X wrote about white supremacists and slaveholders using Christianity to justify their “moral” and “racial superiority” over Blacks. In Malcolm’s own words, “The Holy Bible in the white man’s hands and its interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings.” Throughout history, whether it was in Jerusalem, Spain, India, or Africa, so-called white “Christians” cultivated a twisted interpretation of religion that was compatible with their colonialist agenda. And racism was a key component of their atrocities.
If you believe we should know our history, if you think we and our schools are failing to teach our children the true facts about Black History, then I urge you to do 3 things, especially if you have school age children.
1. Buy them the book and have them read it.
2. Take them to see this movie
3. Go to your school's principal and history teachers and ask them for their supoort in making this book required reading.
So much of the increasing behavioral issues we are seeing with our children today come from them not knowing who they are, where they come from, and where they fit in. Its up to Black people to address this.