In this riveting landmark autobiography which reads like a novel, Academy Award and Emmy winner Louis Gossett, Jr., masterfully transports us to 1840s New York, Washington, D.C., and Louisiana to experience the kidnapping and twelve years of bondage of Solomon Northup, a free man of color. Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853, was an immediate bombshell in the national debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War. It validated Harriett Beecher Stowe’s fictional account of Southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had become the best-selling American book in history a few years earlier and significantly changed public opinion in favor of abolition. A major motion picture based on the book starring Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Michael Fassbender, is set for release in 2013. This audio edition with an accompanying custom map is based on the research of Dr. Sue Eakin, the nationally recognized authority on Solomon Northup who spent a lifetime authenticating his story.
Hard working Solomon Northup, an educated free man of color in 1841, enjoys family life with his wife and three children in Saratoga, New York. He delights his community with his fiddle playing and antic spirit, and has positive expectations of all he meets. When he is deceived by “circus promoters” to accompany them to a musical gig in the nation’s capital, his joyful life takes an unimaginable turn. He awakens in shackles to find he has been drugged, kidnapped and bound for the slave block in D.C.
After Solomon is shipped 1,000 miles to New Orleans, he is assigned his slave name and quickly learns that the mere utterance of his true origin or rights as a freeman are certain to bring severe punishment or death. While he endures the brutal life of a slave in Louisiana’s isolated Bayou Boeuf plantation country, he must learn how to play the system and plot his escape home.
For 12 years, his fine mind captures the reality of slavery in stunning detail, as we learn about the characters that populate plantation society and the intrigues of the bayou – from the collapse of a slave rebellion resulting in mass hangings due to traitorous slave Lew Cheney, to the tragic end of his friend Patsey because of Mrs. Epps’ jealousy of her husband’s sexual exploitation of his pretty young slave.
When Solomon finally finds a sympathizing friend who risks his life to secret a letter to the North, a courageous rescue attempt ensues that could either compound Solomon’s suffering, or get him back to the arms of his family.
AUTHENTICATION: Northup’s harrowing first-hand account was authenticated from decades of research by Dr. Sue Eakin, who rediscovered the original narrative as a 12-year old in 1931 and made it her life’s work.
For additional audio clips, background info and images, see our website at www.TwelveYearsASlaveBook.com
©2013 Eakin Films & Publishing (P)2013 Eakin Films & Publishing
“...Gossett infuses the words with a quiet, seething power." (AudioFile, 2013)
“I can never read his account of his days in slavery, of his independence of spirit, of his determination to be free…without believing that it would make a difference in today's world if our contemporaries knew of such a man as Solomon Northup." (Dr. John Hope Franklin, past president of the American Historical Association, best-selling author, recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom, nation's highest civilian honor)
"[T]he extraordinary narrative of Solomon Northup is the most remarkable book that was ever issued from the American press." (Detroit Tribune, original 1853 review)
"Its truth is far greater than fiction." (Frederick Douglass, famous writer, former slave and abolitionist)
"It will be read extensively, both at the North and the South." (New York Tribune, 1853, published by Horace Greeley)
Almost forty years ago, Dr. Sue Eakin opened for me the portal to the world of Solomon Northup, an educated free man of color kidnapped and forced into slavery for twelve years in the fields that I had seen growing up in central Louisiana. Her life's mission was to nurture and preserve his true story, and because of her dedication, I know about this remarkable man who over a hundred years ago walked many of the same places I walked ... he in bondage, me in freedom.
In 1975, Dr. Eakin's son, Frank Eakin (my classmate and today the producer of the audiobook), photographed the old plantation house where Northup toiled in the fields of its brutal owner. I was amazed to discover that it was about 5 miles from my home and that I could read all about it in my grandmother's copy of "Twelve Years A Slave." First edited by Dr. Eakin in 1968 to authenticate Northup's original narrative (published in 1853, but hard to find through the cobwebs of time), it has been preserved for eternity in the canon of slave narratives because of her lifetime's efforts. So much did Solomon Northup become woven into her life that he became like a member of the whole Eakin family, and his name is chiseled into my own lifetime of memories.
Thus began my magnificent obsession during these last four decades; I could never forget Northup. He was the subject of many of my college essays and presentations, and his experiences elicited both the delight and horror of my classmates. I've collected Dr. Eakin’s subsequent Louisiana history textbook and her histories of surrounding towns for my "Eakin library," and my family and I have cherished these treasures like priceless heirlooms.
Now imagine that Northup has a voice ... and that of none other than the inimitable Lou Gossett, Jr. A voice is worth a thousand emotions, and Mr. Gossett intones the dignity and the wit, the anger and the anguish, the joy and the sorrow of Solomon Northup. This audiobook allows you to imagine that he's sitting right next to you and telling you all about his kidnapping and the loss of his freedom (in the nation's capital city, no less) and his twelve long years in bondage. Besides being educated and born a free man, Northup was a musician who felt the rhythms in the melody of life. Mr. Gossett's dynamic voice and seamless transitions between characters and events places you in the middle of the 1800s, actually feeling it through the eyes of a slave...an extremely intelligent man with a spirit that could not be "whipped down" when he was made the scapegoat of the lesser men who "owned" him.
Yes, I've waited to "meet" Solomon Northup a long time, as a lover of history and today as a teacher. You'll want to meet him, too. You'll never forget him, and maybe some day you'll want to ride along the winding country roads that are marked as the "Northup Trail" in central Louisiana while Solomon tells you his story. He'll awaken the ghosts of another time, as well as your humanity.
I had read this powerful book years ago and was surprised how its impact was even more stunning. Gossett's telling offered no escape from my own deep feelings.
Solomon speaks the truth of slavery in unflinching detail, yet is deeply philosophical and introspective, so listeners take a growth-ful journey with him.
Gossett's seems to live out Solomon's repressed anger, forthright rage, despair, and also delivers witty retorts, contentment and joy.
Some scenes were hard to take (beatings, children torn from mothers) and I reacted with deep sorrow. I was grateful for Solomon's wonderful wit and his willingness to find value in all his work.
Any listener can learn a lot from Solomon Northup, a keen observer of both nature and human nature who has the intelligence, and the will, to make his experience meaningful to himself and others.
"Twelve Years A Slave" is a powerful narrative in and of itself, telling the story of Solomon Northup, a black man born free yet kidnapped and sold into slavery for twelve years before being rescued. The narrative provides a unique perspective on slavery, being told from the slave himself instead of an outsider looking in. Solomon's view is not sugar-coated, but neither is it harsh when it does not need to be. Louis Gossett, Jr.'s voice brings a humanness to Solomon, and in doing so brings him to life. While listening to Gossett's extraordinary delivery, one hears the emotions Solomon felt throughout the narrative - the disillusionment upon being kidnapped, the hope of one day escaping, the hopelessness of that same possibility, the realization that not all slave owners were beasts, the horror at the actions of other slave owners, just to name a few. I found that multiple times during the course of listening to Gossett reading the narrative of Solomon Northup, I would almost forget it was not Northup himself recounting his experiences. Gossett is so effective in this regard that I felt myself experiencing the emotions along with Solomon. This rare perspective offers a glimpse into slavery that many people cannot fathom. At the end, I felt I knew Solomon Northup so well that I celebrated along with him at his long overdue freedom.
As an educator, I will share this historical account with future students to make sure they know this story.
Yes, I would recommend this audiobook to my friends.
This story takes you into the mind and thoughts of a slave in mid-1800s Louisiana. This book has a slightly different angle, telling the story from the perspective on a free man of color who was lured from his hometown in New York and kidnapped into slavery in Washington DC (on the mall across from the Capitol), then shipped to Louisiana. Solomon is highly intelligent and smarter than most slaves (and slave masters), and has unique talents. He describes aspects of slavery that are very seldom told. As a descendant of a slave, this is the first book I have read that answered questions that are never asked. It shed insight on why the slaves continued in slavery and did not, or could not, revolt en masse, and what they did when they just couldn't take it anymore. As an African-American, I especially appreciated the effort made by the author to enlighten future generations about the truth of 19th century Southern slavery and provide a factual view of the institution based on his actual experience, and a balanced account of individual men who populated plantation society.
It is hard to compare this book to any I have read, since most books about slavery tell pretty much the same story. This author really tried to capture the life and experience of this slave and shared his inner thoughts. This is was made this book exceptional.
Based on Lou Gossett's very personal performance of the slave Solomon Northup's first-person story, I'm thinking that the movie can't match what I just experienced. He makes you feel as if you are actually sitting across from him, perhaps over coffee, and he is sharing his story, sometimes engaging you in the haunting details of his captivity and the characters he encountered along his journey (some evil, some heroic), and sometimes emotionally gripping you with heart-rending moments that he conveys with perfection. You soon forget it's a performance and you live the moment with Solomon. The realism Gossett delivers helps you to visualize the people and scenes in your mind in a way that seems more powerful than a movie's visuals. I am an avid audiobook listener and this experience was unique. It's much more than a narration, it's bringing a slave from 150 years ago back to life and placing him in front of you.
Yes, it was hard to turn off.
I would recommend this audiobook to all African Americans. It gives a new insight into our ancestors life. It answers some of those questions that we don't ask.
I'm Frank Eakin of Eakin Films & Publishing, the producer of this audiobook. We are hopeful that AudioFile Magazine’s outstanding review of Louis Gossett, Jr.’s narration of TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE in early 2013 will be the first of many that will set the stage for a Grammy nomination: “...Gossett infuses the words with a quiet, seething power." Aside from being a world class performer with an Emmy for his role as Fiddler in ROOTS and an Oscar for OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, Lou’s passion for this story and the subject of human suffering drives his riveting performance. He has been a wonderful partner in this venture and his work comes from the heart.
The story of Solomon Northup has a long history in my family. Originally published in 1853, the autobiography was lost to history by the early twentieth century, when a 12-year old avid reader in central Louisiana – the future Dr. Sue Eakin – reached upon the library shelf of a plantation home and discovered a dusty copy of the book that would determine her life's path. She went on write her master's thesis about Solomon’s story and after decades of research, produced the first authenticated edition of the book in 1968. In 2007, at the age of 88, she completed a final definitive edition with over 100 pages of additional fascinating information, never-before-published images and unique maps related to the story that will be released as an e-book and paperback on Amazon soon. This audiobook edition comes with an accompanying copyrighted custom map developed by Dr. Eakin that tracks the story and shows the plantation tracts owned by the slave masters mentioned in the narrative.
For more info, including updates on the 2013 movie starring Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Michael Fassbender (directed by Steve McQueen), check out our website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Also see our Facebook page for Eakin Films & Publishing and the title’s Wikipedia page. Whenever you see Dr. Sue Eakin’s name associated with a book or audiobook related to Solomon’s story, that’s us – and you’ll know that you’re buying a high quality product with Dr. Eakin’s lifetime of research and dedication behind it.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
First of all, the account of slave life in this book is remarkable. Free from the gloss of historical fiction, it just lays out the hard, cold facts. The description of daily life is beyond anything I'd ever imagined. The word "horrific" doesn't even begin to describe it. Second, there is Solomon Northup's way of dealing with life and mankind. I simply cannot imagine being dealt those cards and responding with even a tenth of his dignity. Third ... it's impossible not to admire Northup's writing ability and his wonderful vocabulary. I was charmed by him.
I am awed by the men and women who had the strength of mind to endure. And I'm grateful for the brave souls who had the conviction to deal with slavery - often in personal ways and at great risk - and to help when they could. This book had a way of really personalizing that work and making its importance so clear.
The narration fits this book perfectly. I heard Solomon Northup telling his story - exactly as it should be. It is a tough listen at times, but powerful and very real. Highly recommended.
I may go back and listen to certain parts after I see the movie.
That it was true!
His voice of course, and his passion.
I'm listening to the Louis Gossett, Jr. audio book of this on my kindle because it's a super convenient way to absorb the story before the Brad Pitt movie comes out. From what I've taken in so far, it's one of those cases where truth reads like fiction, but is even more engaging because you know it's historical fact. It's clear to see why the big boys decided to make a movie from it. I think I saw where Amazon is making it's whisper sync feature available for it so that when the corresponding e-book comes out for Kindle (soon I hope) I'll be able to read when I can and listen when I can, and never lose my place. Louis Gossett, Jr. is the perfect voice for the audio book. Can't wait to see on the big screen what I'm learning about now from the original source whenever I have a few spare minutes to listen to it on my Kindle.
In the top 3.
Platt's flight through the swamp.
The tearing away of little Emily from her mother.
During a Bogo sale this book piqued my interest. Then I discovered I live only 34 miles from the location of Northup's slavery! I was born in Alexandria,La. and have lived here nearly all of my life. I am familiar with the locations of all the places mentioned in the book. It's stunning to realize that the events in this book are so close geographically, and culturally to me. Even if this book weren't true, (and it is), it is still gripping and deeply moving. It made me to considering more the suffering of African Americans and the reasons why the Deep South culture is what it is today. Nevertheless, neither resentment nor prejudice comes from the pen of Northup, but only thankfulness and honesty.
A first hand account of life as it was in that time in history. The untiring voice of Louis Gossett Jr. brings to life the words of the author.
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