"Frightening, gripping and inspiring . . . Northup's story seems almost biblical, structured as it is as a descent and resurrection narrative of a protagonist who, like Christ, was 33 at the time of his abduction. . . . Northup reminds us of the fragile nature of freedom in any human society and the harsh reality that whatever legal boundaries existed between so-called free states and slave states in 1841, no black man, woman or child was permanently safe." --Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from the Afterword
"For sheer drama, few accounts of slavery match Solomon Northup's tale of abduction from freedom and forcible enslavement." --Ira Berlin, from the Introduction
"If you think the movie offers a terrible-enough portrait of slavery, please, do read the book. . . . The film is stupendous art, but it owes much to a priceless piece of document. Solomon Northup's memoir is history. . . . His was not simply an extraordinary story, but an account of the life of a great many ordinary people." --The Daily Beast
"An incredible document, amazingly told and structured. Tough, but riveting. The movie of it by Steve McQueen might be the most successful adaptation of a book ever undertaken; text and film complement each other wildly." --Rachel Kushner, The New York Times Book Review
"The best firsthand account of slavery." --James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, in The New York Times Book Review
"Northup published a memoir of his 12-year nightmare in 1853, the year after Uncle Tom's Cabin came out, and it was so successful that he went on to participate in two stage adaptations. The book dropped from sight in the 20th century, but the movie tie-in will certainly reestablish its virtually unique status as a work by an educated free man who managed to return from slavery." --The Hollywood Reporter
SOLOMON NORTHUP was kidnapped into slavery in Washington, D.C. in 1841. Shortly after
his escape, he published his memoirs to great acclaim and brought legal action against his
abductors, though they were never persecuted. The details of his life thereafter are unknown, but
he is believed to have died in Glen Falls, NY, around 1863.
IRA BERLIN (introducer) is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Maryland. His
many books include THE MAKING OF AFRICAN AMERICA (Viking Penguin) and MANY THOUSANDS GONE: THE FIRST TWO CENTURIES OF SLAVERY IN NORTH AMERICA, winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. (general editor) is Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of
the W. E. B Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. A
MacArthur Fellow, he is also editor-in-chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, host
of Faces of America (PBS), and editor-in-chief of TheRoot.com.