June 3th 2014
12 Years a Slave Film Adaptation: Analysis, Rhetoric and Responses
“Then did the idea begin to break upon my mind, at first dim and confused, that I had been kidnapped. I felt there was no trust or mercy in unfeeling man; and commending myself to the God of the oppressed, bowed my head upon my fettered hands, and wept most bitterly.” 19 —Solomon Northup
The day Solomon Northup woke up in chains marked the beginning of his twelve year journey through slavery. Northup had been among the small minority of free African Americans living in preCivil War times who were financially well off. He was well educated and a remarkably talented violinist who resided in upstate New York. In the spring of 1841, he was lured by two white gentlemen into traveling to Washington to perform music for a circus. Tragically, he was kidnapped on the trip and sold in the Southern states as a slave. He regained his freedom in 1853 and published his memoirs of the experience as a narrative titled 12 Years a Slave. The book instantly became a national best seller that further fueled the abolitionist movement because it provided a comprehensive view of the horrors of slavery by showcasing its relentless physical and psychological violence.
Northrup’s detailed account and unique perspective inspired movie director Steve McQueen to make Northup’s 12 Years a Slave into a 21st century film. McQueen’s film, 12 years a slave, accurately depicts Northrup’s anathema of slavery and as importantly, presents the hardhitting discertation that racial discrimination is rampant in our present times. McQueen’s movie is not just powerful because it is based on Northrup’s unique perspective, but also because of his vivid depiction of the brutality that past
movies regarding slavery more often