This book was written in 1853 about a free black man who was kidnapped and transported south to live as a slave for 12 long years. I’ve read other memoirs written in the same time frame, and I have to say that I don’t love the style of personal narratives written at the time. So that dislike of the way this memoir was written is reflected in how much I was able to enjoy the book as a whole, if one can enjoy reading about the utter misery of another human being.
Northup writes frankly about how he was lured to travel to Washington D.C. under the guise of a job playing the violin for a circus. He is also up front about not being sure how deeply involved his traveling companions were involved in the kidnapping plot. After being (Northup assumes, and I agreee, so it has to be correct, right?) that he was drugged, Northup finds himself being held in a type of holding pen for slaves. There are other kidnap victims and a few that were sold into slavery by vicious relatives. Each story is tragic. After a beating Northup is given to understand that if he is going to survive, he will never be able to tell people that he was once free and has been kidnapped. For one, no one will believe him in the deep south where they are traveling. Northup is eventually purchased by a kindly plantation owner, but this only lasts for two years. Due to financial difficulties he is sold to a vicious, and then a more vicious master. He describes beatings and ill treatment frankly as well as how he managed to finally contact friends in the North to assist in his release.
This is a powerful memoir, but I dislike the style in general. I also find it disturbing that I wasn’t able to visualize a lot of what the scenery looked like based on the writing style. It was written in a sort of “this happened then this other thing happened” format. I would recommend this to history buffs, particularly those interested in slavery non fiction.