December 29, 2013

Contemporary Reviews of Solomon Northup's 12 Years a Slave, 1853

Previously:

Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles

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This is a collection of contemporary book reviews of Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave that was printed in the Pennsylvania Freedman of Philadelphia, PA on September 1, 1853. 

You can read the full memoir Twelve Years a Slave for FREE on Googlebooks. (I think you can download the free Google Play app and then read it on your phone, or download it as a PDF and view it in any PDF reader app.) While the movie with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o is very good, it changed several incidents, and there was a lot that the movie didn't have the time or ability to explore, and I highly recommend reading it even if you have seen or plan to see the movie.


[September 1, 1853] -

The Narrative will be read with interest by every one who can sympathise with a human being struggling for freedom. -- Buff. Cour.

The volume cannot fail to gain a wide circulation. It will be read extensively both at the North and South. No one can contemplate the scenes which are here so naturally set forth, without a new conviction of the hideousness of the institution from which the subject of the Narrative happily escaped. -- N.Y. Trib.

What a tale it tells;what inexpressible reproofs against Slavery; what occasion for shame and tears on the part of all. We think the story as affecting as any tale of sorrow could be. We believe its perusal will not only excite an absorbing interest, but minister powerfully to the sound, intelligent anti-slavery sentiment of the country. -- N.Y. Eveng.

Next to Uncle Tom's Cabin, the extraordinary Narrative of Solomon Northup, is the most remarkable book that has ever issued from the American Press. Indeed it is even a more extraordinary work than that, because it is only a simple, unvarnished tale of the experience of an American freeman of the "blessings" of Slavery, while Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom is only an ingenious and powerfully wrought novel, intended to illustrate what Solomon saw and experienced, Southern Slavery in its various phases. -- Detroit Tribune.

We hope it will be universally read. If we do not sadly err, it will prove of vast service in the great cause of Freedom. If there are those who can peruse it unmoved, we pity them. That it will create as great a sensation, and be regarded equally as interesting as "Uncle Tom's Cabin," is not a question for argument. In our opinion it will lead that wonderful work in the popular opinion, and in the aggregate of sales. -- Buff. Express.

This is one of the most exciting narratives, full of thrilling incidents articulately told, with all the marks of truth. Such a tale is more powerful than any fiction which can be conceived and elaborated. There are no depicted scenes in "Uncle Tom" more tragic, horrible and pathetic, than the incidents compassed in the twelve years of this man's life in slavery. -- Cin. Jour.

He who with an unbiased mind sits down to the perusal of this book, will arise perfectly satisfied that American Slavery is a hell of torments yet untold, and fell like devoting the energies of his life to its extirpation from the face of God's beautiful earth. -- Even. Chron.

It is one of the most effective books against slavery that was ever written. "Archy Moore" and "Uncle Tom" are discredited by many as "romances;" but how the apologists for the institution can dispose of Northup we are curious to see. -- Spr. Jour.

It is well told, and bears internal evidence of being a clear statement of facts. There is no attempt at display but the events are so graphically portrayed, that the interest in the perusal is deep and unabated to the last. Some of the scenes have a fearful and exciting power in their delineation. The sunshine of kind treatment sheds a few broad beams athwart the dark canvass of twelve years of bondage; but in the main, the darker cruelty and wickedness of oppression is still more revolting by the contrast. -- Cayugo Chief.

It is a strange history, its truth is far stranger than fiction. Think of it? For thirty years a man, with all a man's hopes, fears and aspirations--with a wife and children to call him by the endearing names of husband and father--with a home, humble it may be, but still a home, beneath the shelter of whse roof none had a right to molest or make him afraid--then for twelve years a thing, a chattel personal, classed with mules and horses and treated with less consideration than they, torn from his home and family, and free labor by which he earned their bread, and driven to unremitting, unrequited toil in a cotton field, under a burning southern sun, by the lash of an inhuman master. Oh! it is horrible. It chills the blood to think that such things are. -- Fred. Douglass' Paper.

It comes before us with highly respectable vouchers, and is a plain and simple statement of what happened to the author while in bondage to southern masters. While we concede to the south all the privileges in respect to slavery which are guaranteed to them by the constitution, we are free to speak of its evils; and when particular instances of inhuman treatment of slaves come to our notice we shall remark upon them as we please. It is a well told story, full of interest, and may be said to be the reality of "life among the lowly." -- Buff. Com. Adv.

Let it be read by all those good easy souls, who think slavery is, on the whole a good thing. Let it be read by all those who think that although slavery is politically and economically a bad thing, it is not very bad for the slaves. Let it be read by all those M. C.'s and supporters who are always ready to give their votes in aid of Slavery and the slave-trade with all the kidnapping inseparable from it. -- Let it be read, too, by our Southern friends, who pity with so much christian sensibility, the wretched condition of the free negroes at the north, and rejoice at the enviable condition of their own slaves. -- N. Y. Independent.


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