Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave

All my life I’ve been a12 Years a Slave 001 (1) fan and great admirer of personal journals, diaries and memoirs. I love the real-life ‘everyman’ experiences and the immediacy of that kind of writing. Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave, first published in 1852, was recently made into an award-winning film of the same name. A well-educated man, Solomon’s writing is always precise and detailed, deeply moving and often lyrical. Here he describes being rescued from hanging only to be left bound in the sun for hours, the noose still around his neck.

“As the sun approached the meridian that day it became insufferably warm. Its hot rays scorched the ground. The earth almost blisterd the foot that stood upon it. I was without coat or hat, standing bare-headed, exposed to its burning blaze. Great drops of perspiration rolled down my face, drenching the scanty apparel wherewith I was clothed. Over the fence, a very little way off, the peach trees cast their cool, delicious shadows on the grass. I would gladly have given a long year of service to have been enabled to exchange the heated oven, as it were, wherein I stood, for a seat beneath their branches. But I was yet bound, the rope still dangling from my neck and standing in the same tracks where Tibeats and his comrades left me. I could not move an inch, so firmly had I been bound. To have been enabled to lean against the weaving house would have been a luxury indeed. But it was far beyond my reach, though distant less than twenty feet. I wanted to lie down, but knew I could not rise again. The ground was so parched and boiling hot I was aware it would but add to the discomfort of my situation. If I could have only moved my position, however slightly, it would have been relief unspeakable.ut the hot rays of a southern sun, beating all the long summer day on my bare head produced not half the suffering I experienced from my aching limbs.”

Even in Solomon’s dire situation, he was not without humor.

“Bob ventured to say that his fingers were so numb with cold he couldn’t pick fast. Epps cursed himself for not having brought his rawhide and declared that when he came out again he would warm us well; yes, he would make us all hotter than that fiery realm in which I am sometimes compelled to believe he will himself eventually reside.”

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  • Copyright © 2011-16, Dianne Ebertt Beeaff. All Rights Reserved.
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