Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stolen into Slavery: The True Story of Solomon Nortup, Free Black Man

Title:  Stolen into Slavery: The True Story of Solomon Nortup, Free Black Man
Author:  Judith and Denis Fradin
Illustrator: N/a

Publisher: National Geographic
Genre:  Biography
Level: Upper
Number of Pages: 119
Pub. Date: 2012

This remarkable story follows Solomon Northup through his 12 years of bondage as a man kidnapped into slavery, enduring the hardships of slave life in Louisiana.  Most readers know something about the Underground Railroad, when African Americans went from slavery to freedom, but this volume presents the opposite scenario: the enslavement of thousands of free Northern blacks. The story starts with a telling of Solomon Northup awoke in the middle of the night and realized that he was handcuffed in a dark room and his feet were chained to the floor. He managed to slip his hand into his pocket to look for his free papers that proved he was one of 400,000 free blacks in a nation where 2.5 million other African Americans were slaves. They were gone. It follows him through his journey when he is sold to multiple owners and treated horribly by all of them. He is able to make some extra money by playing a violin at parties. He is able to form a friendship with a carpenter who writes him letters to people in New York that can help free him. Northup is rescued from his master's cotton plantation in the deep South by friends in New York.

Solomon's Original Book
Critique:  All of the dialogue and many of the details come from Northup’s own memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853. Photographs, maps and reproductions of a bill of sale and various newspaper images complement the text. There is also a lot of addition information in the back of the book that make this a high quality non-fiction text. There is an afterword that tells more about the movement that sold thousands of free men and women into slavery and a timeline of slavery in the United States before, during and after the life of Solomon Northrup. There is also a bibliography, a list of online resources and an index.

Response: Something new that I learned from this book that free men and women were sold back into slavery. I knew a lot about the Underground Railroad, but I did not know about the opposite movement. This was a new topic that I have never learned about. It was really horrible to read Solomon’s story and think about the fact that it happened to a huge number of people. Thinking about what it would be like to be denied freedom after growing up in a life of it, it just makes me shudder.

Link to the Electronic Version of the original book:

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