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Twelve Years a Slave

  • Runtime: 7.8 Hours
  • Recording: Unabridged
  • Release date: 3.15.2013
  • Publisher: Eakin Films
  • Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
  • 7.85 hrs3/15/2013Unabridged
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-4829-1616-4
7 reviews 0 5 4.9 4 out of 5 stars 4.9/5
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30 day rental Learn more

A New York Times Bestseller

A USA Today Bestseller

An NPR Bestseller

An iTunes Top Seller

A Publishers Weekly Bestseller

In this riveting landmark autobiography that reads like a novel, Academy Award and Emmy winner Louis Gossett, Jr., masterfully transports us to 1840s New York, Louisiana, and Washington, DC, to experience the kidnapping and twelve-year bondage of Solomon Northup, a free man of color. Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853, was an immediate bombshell in the national debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War. It validated Harriett Beecher Stowe’s fictional account of Southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had become the best-selling American book in history a few years earlier, and significantly changed public opinion in favor of abolition. A major motion picture based on the book and starring Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, and Michael Fassbender released in 2013.

Hard working Solomon Northup, an educated free man of color in 1841, enjoys family life with his wife and three children in Saratoga, New York. He delights his community with his fiddle playing and antic spirit and has positive expectations of everyone he meets. When he is deceived by “circus promoters” who ask him to accompany them to a musical gig in Washington, DC, his joyful life takes an unimaginable turn. He awakes in shackles to find he has been drugged, kidnapped, and bound for the slave block in the nation’s capital.

After Solomon is shipped a thousand miles to New Orleans, he is assigned his slave name and quickly learns that the mere utterance of his true origin or rights as a freeman are certain to bring severe punishment, maybe even death. While he endures the brutal life of a slave in Louisiana’s isolated Bayou Boeuf plantation country, he must learn how to play the system and plot his escape home.

For twelve years, his fine mind captures the reality of slavery in stunning detail, and listeners learn about the characters that populated plantation society and the intrigues of the bayou—from the collapse of a slave rebellion resulting in mass hangings due to traitorous slave Lew Cheney to the tragic abuse of his friend Patsey, brought about by Mrs. Epps’ jealousy of her husband’s sexual exploitation of the pretty young slave.

When Solomon finally finds a sympathizing friend who risks his life to secret a letter to the North, a courageous rescue attempt ensues that could either compound Solomon’s suffering or get him back to the arms of his family.

“[Screenwriter John] Ridley said he decided simply to stick with the facts in adapting Northup’s book for the film…[and] he was helped by voluminous footnotes and documentation that were included with Dr. Eakin’s edition of the book.”—New York Times (September 22, 2013) on the making of the film 12 Years a Slave

Editorial Reviews

“When I came across Solomon Northup’s autobiography Twelve Years a Slave I was astonished at every page; it was exactly the story I wanted to tell on film. The universality of the book, what ties it together, is family—it is the story of a man trying to return to his home. It is a story for our time, every bit as essential as Anne Frank’s diary.”

Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, from the Foreword

“Delivered in the gruff, weather-beaten, but unbowed voice of Academy Award winner Gossett, Jr.…Throughout his reading, Gossett strikes a delicate balance between moral outrage, humility, and sheer world-weariness…Recommended not only for its connection to McQueen’s film but also for Gossett’s stellar reading.”

Booklist (starred audio review)

“The author is articulate and proud, and Louis Gossett, Jr., carries this tone throughout his reading. Northup writes in a straightforward style, letting facts and details speak more eloquently than emotion. Again, Gossett captures this feeling. But when the author does get emotional, Gossett infuses the words with a quiet, seething power.”

AudioFile

“A moving, vital testament to one of slavery’s ‘many thousands gone’ who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation. It is also a chilling insight into the ‘peculiar institution.’”

Saturday Review

“I can never read his account of his days in slavery, of his independence of spirit, of his determination to be free…without believing that it would make a difference in today’s world if our contemporaries knew of such a man as Solomon Northup.”

Dr. John Hope Franklin, past president of the American Historical Association, bestselling author, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

“Such a tale is more powerful than any fiction which can be conceived and elaborated.”

Cincinnati Journal (1853)

“The extraordinary narrative of Solomon Northup is the most remarkable book that was ever issued from the American press.”

Detroit Tribune (1853)

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7 out of 7 (100%) recommend this product

Write a review
    • 5/5

    Riveting, Heart Wrenching and Inspirational

    Jenn August 4, 2013
    Louis Gossett, Jr's portrayal of Solomon Northup in this audiobook left an impression I will not soon forget. His reading completely drew me into the story and into a world of horrific injustice, man's inhumanity to man, bravery and steadfast hope. I learned a lot of things I did not know about how the slave trade worked, and my heart wept many times as listened to Solomon's story. This is a beautiful story of redemption, upheld by perseverance in hope, faith and love.
    No 0 | Yes 1
    • 5/5

    Best audiobook of the year, the closest thing to reading the audiobiography

    Renee Moore July 15, 2013
    This audiobook tells the story of Solomon Northup in a way that makes the reader feel he is right there while it happens. Accurate and compelling this audiobook gives the reader a real slice of history told through narator, Louis Gossett, Jr. His clear and precise narration keeps the listener at the edge their seat waiting for what will happen next. As someone who has read the autobiography and knows the story well, I was kept excited and riveted on every word as if experiencing it for the first time. I recommend this audiobook to anyone who is a frequent driver and still wants to know the riveting and exciting story of Mr. Northup's life and times. The map that comes with this audiobook takes everyone along the path of Mr. Northuip's journey and ordeal.
    No 0 | Yes 0
    • 5/5

    Left an indelible mark on me

    Bert Turner June 30, 2013
    It's scary that this system existed not so long ago. For goodness sake, the slave pen in DC where Solomon was kept was literally down the street from the White House! The scene describing the slave auction in which the men were dressed up in suits and merchandised (a sketch is on their site TwelveYearsASlave.org) in the French Qtr in N. Orleans... just boggles the mind. Broke my heart when Solomon (Lou Gossett) described how his friend had her children sold away from her one by one. But the story had an interesting balance, describing good men caught up in a bad system as well. I can't wait to see the movie, but the audiobook is so personal. Gossett deserves a Grammy... made me feel that I knew this man who was telling me his personal story after his recent rescue from 12 years of slavery. Left an indelible mark on me, I believe.
    No 0 | Yes 0
    • 5/5

    Engaging, wonderful performance by Lou Gossett, Jr; great story

    jonboy June 29, 2013
    I listen to many audiobooks and this is probably the most engaging non-fiction that I have ever experienced. Lou Gossett gives an amazing performance, not just a narration. The story is well paced and unforgettable. I'm excited to see the movie, but the first person account by Gossett is so personal there is no other media that could have such an impact on the reader/listener.
    No 0 | Yes 0
    • 5/5

    Amazing story brought to life by Louis Gossett Jr.

    Gary May 30, 2013
    Just finished the audio book. Gossett delivered a performance that drew me in as though Solomon Northup himself was telling his story.
    No 0 | Yes 0

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Narrator Interview

Narrator Interview

Author Biography

Solomon Northup (1808–ca. 1870) was an African American who was born a free man in Saratoga Springs, New York. In 1841 he was kidnapped after being lured to Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana. Following his courageous rescue came his riveting memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, which helped cement public opinion in favor of abolition leading up to the Civil War.

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Reader Biography

Louis Gossett, Jr., is one of the most respected African American actors in film, television, stage, and voice-over history with a distinct voice that carries quiet authority. A triple-threat talent with an Emmy for Roots, an Oscar for Officer and a Gentleman, and a Golden Globe for The Josephine Baker Story, Gossett is in the upper echelons of elite actors. As an impassioned activist, he firmly believes in giving back to the community and has donated his performance royalties from the Twelve Years a Slave audiobook to his nonprofit organization, the Erascism Foundation, which focuses on planting the seeds of social tolerance with children and eliminating the stigma of racism.

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