12 Years a Slave - Preface

12 Years a Slave (Illustration) American History Civil Rights Ethics Film Nineteenth Century Life African American History Nonfiction Works Summer Reading Film Series Slaves and Slave Owners

In this still from "12 Years a Slave," we see Edwin Epps (plantation-owner and "Master") threatening Patsey (an extremely hard-working slave) in the presence of Solomon Northup (whose slave name was "Platt"). Image, copyright, Summit Entertainment, Regency Enterprises, River Road Entertainment, Film4 and Plan B, all rights reserved. Provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the film. 


The hope of rescue
was the only light
that cast a ray of comfort
on my heart.

Solomon Northup
"12 Years a Slave"
Page 235

Once, not that long ago, America’s capital had slave pens. Then known as Washington City, the place featured a line of sight between slave pens and the country’s Capitol Building.

Washington was also a place where free blacks could be sold, as slaves, to pay for outstanding costs, like jail fees. A handbill, published in 1836, called the city "Slave Market of America.”

In 1841, a black freeman named Solomon Northup passed through Washington City, on his way to slavery in the South. He did not walk through town along Pennsylvania Avenue, like so many other black people who marched there, single file, in slave coffles.

A violinist, among other things, Solomon had been duped by two white men who offered him the promise of employment with a circus.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Feb 27, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Feb 02, 2017

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