Brother AACOOLDRE : 12 years a slave book review

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    AACOOLDRE Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Jul 26, 2001
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    Book & Movie Review By Andre Austin
    In the black community we had a catch phrase of saying “I’ll beat the black off of you”. Most memorized in the movie Life. It means somebody will beat you up bad. However, literally it may go back to slavery times. I connected the dots in the movie 12 years a slave when Patsey, a Guinea ****** (born in Africa) was whipped where the flesh (black of skin) was removed by the lash.
    One of my darkest moments as a substitute teacher was hearing a student joke about being a house slave and sex toy of the master if she lived back in those days. She most likely will reverse her opinion after reading the plight of Patsey who almost upstages Solomon in the book and movie.
    One of the litmus test or criteria for myself to certify that a book was excellent determines it ability to enable me to drift back into time period the material was written. If you have sympathy and empathy it will assist you going back from 1841-1853, a 12 year bitter cup of wrath of slavery for Solomon Northup. I thought I knew all I needed to know by reading volumes of excerpts of Slave accounts from several books. I was wrong. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to sit back, go back in time and listen and read the details of someone’s personal account of the holocaust of black slavery.
    Solomon Northup was born a freeman in New York in 1808. His father Mintus Northup was freed by the execution of his Masters Will. It was stated in the book that Solomon was a mulatto man. More likely his father or mother, former slaves were mulatto and Solomon was 25% mixed and in that time period would have been classified as a “Quadroon”. Like attracts like, and on Christmas day in 1829 Solomon married his wife Anne Hampton-Northup whose blood was mingled with three races in her veins. From 1829-1841 Solomon and Anne were a happy couple. They produced three children: Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo. Solomon was an educated man who could read and write play the violin and fiddle. His wife cooked for a Hotel and coffee shop. Solomon was a stone cold work alcoholic doing farm work, lumberman and paid musician.
    In 1841 Solomon was tricked into going down south with two white men to perform as a musician in a circus. Apparently he was drugged, kidnapped and placed into a dungeon. When he protested that he was free and not a criminal he was beaten with a rope and wooden paddle until the handle broke off. His whippings continued until he adopted the policy of silence. He found himself in a slave pen in Washington DC and then on a boat on the Mississippi River headed to Louisiana. Solomon and a couple of other slaves planned on a mutiny by sneaking in the captains quarters when they were sleep and seizing their weapons but a slight case of small pox broke out and sabotage their plans. A white sailor did mail a letter to Henry B Northup, Esq. He was a white lawyer and relative of the former owner of Solomon’s father. Henry was unable to locate Solomon because his name was changed to Steward to Platt and didn’t know what plantation or state he was in until 1853.
    For 12 years Solomon had to serve under 5 masters conditional contracts or lease to:
    1. William Ford, who was fair and just to slaves. Ford’s mistress bought Solomon a violin and allowed slaves to have their own personal bibles. The violin allowed Solomon to take off stress from missing his family and earn personal income while a slave. All the other slave owners of Solomon were called “Rascality” (a dirty scoundrel a rogue, scamp type of slave driver).
    2. John Tibeats was a sadistic slave master. Solomon had to work under him because Ford was in debt to him. He wanted to whip Solomon over trivial matters. Tibeats had power over him and wanted to drive Solomon spirit out of him into a total submissive Zombie slave neither living or dead.
    3. Peter Tanner, brother of Mistress Ford. He read the bible to his slaves only in the areas where it said that a slave should obey his master or be subjected to the lash.
    4. Mr. Eldret
    5. Edward (Edwin) Epps, another sadistic slave driver who loved to inflict pain and take sexual pleasures from his female slaves. Solomon was tortured under this man for 10 long years until he was able to get a sympathetic white worker (Bass) ear to get into contact with Henry Northup, another sympathic white to intervene on his behalf. Recall Solomon was educated and could read and write but it was difficult for him to get free. While Solomon was a slave Harriet Tubman freed herself in 1849 with a disability of seizures from an accident of getting a dent in her skull by a piece of iron. Nevertheless, she freed a thousand slaves and had a bounty on her head of $40,000 dollars dead or alive. Some slaves didn’t know they were slaves and couldn’t be freed while others stayed on the plantation not by chains or gates but by Fear of lash or separation of family.
    Short facts about slavery according to Solomon
    These are not universal rule, regulations or customs of slavery all over. They a peculiar to the region and state and time of Louisiana. Some of the themes hold true all over the south on the conditions of slavery.
    1. Religion upholds or recognizes the principles of slavery
    2. Examinations (nude inspection) is given to slaves if no warranty is given
    3. Most slaves only have brute intelligence and only fear the lash and to obey the voice of the Master.
    4. 500 lashes were delivered for runaway slaves. It’s not clear if Patsey, the queen of the field received 500 lashes on a single day for going to another plantation on the Sabbath (Sunday) for getting some soap. Patsey could pick five hundred pounds of cotton per day when the average man could only pick 2 to 3 hundred. Because of the hard work she built up musk and stink and wanted to take a bath on her day off on the Sabbath. Her back already bore a thousand stripes because the wife of Master Epps was jealous of her sexual attractiveness. The Sabbath beating of Patsey broke her spirit and heart and turned her into a walking Zombie. She never again would leave the plantation without permission because the black was beaten off of her from which she never forgot. The movie didn’t depict Patsey whipping accurately. They had her stand up by a pole while reality she was placed face down naked with hands and legs tied to four stakes driven in the ground.
    5. Slave mothers suffered mental illness from children being separated and sold to other plantations and states. They walked around talking to their children as if they were actually there when they were long gone.
    6. The Jews wrote in their Bibles that they didn’t work of the Sabbath because God rested after he finished creating the universe in 6 days or that Moses liberated Jews from working for free to the Egyptians. The Sabbath was extended to the black slaves not to work or to work and keep their wages. Most did because Master only supplied them weekly with corn, cornmeal and 3 pounds of bacon; often times had worms in it. Slaves had to supply their own cooking utensils, extra clothes, vegetables, coffee, sugar, tea all luxury items.
    7. White children (aged 10-12) allowed to chastised (whip) grown black slaves, which they didn’t show in the movie. If you look white man in eyes you get 10-25 lashes, oversleep you get ten lashes
    8. Any Whiteman can whip a slave off plantation without a pass. Some were Paddyrollers who are now the stand your ground white citizens and black gangs of America.
    9. Slaves not allowed to learn to swim because they could swim to freedom through the swamps. Even to this day a high level of blacks don’t know how to swim.
    10. If a slave got sick and was going to die someone was appointed to take them out of their misery by hitting them in the head with a hammer or something. Just like a horse is shot in the head if he breaks a leg. If you got into an argument with cabin-mates you were whipped.
    11. Women did the same labor as men. The fattest hoer gets to lead if he is passed by a slave he’s whipped. The term hoe being applied to sexual deviant woman may be due to the fact that many slaves had to worked naked in the field while other were fully clothed all depended on master and plantation. The crack of the lash was heard from night to bedtime. Not a single day passed where no one was whipped.
    12. Most of slave drivers were black with whips around their necks. If they don’t use it or fall below quota they are whipped by the white overseer. Often times a slave ran away to the swamps just so he could rest 2 to three days from pure exhaustion knowing they would be whipped. Slaves who return on their own were whipped a foot from their life and if had to be brought in you were whipped an inch from your life.
    If you get the opportunity please read and watch the movie. It was a priceless pleasure for me to get Solomon’s autobiography account of reading his 12 years of slavery in the wilderness of North America. I felt like I traveled in time from 1841-1853 to an upside civilization. Solomon was motivated to tell his story because of the works of fiction portraying slavery in a more pleasing aspects. However, I believe Solomon omitted and held back some facts due to the times it was written. Solomon was separated from his wife for 12 years. He was denied her kiss, embrace and love from this beautiful triple-racial queen and omits any physical contact with another woman during his captivity wasn’t credible. He didn’t touch the queen of the field, or a runaway from another plantation or any advances by a slave “wench”, no nothing. As in all biography they don’t tell you everything. But what was said moved me very much
  2. skuderjaymes

    skuderjaymes Contextualizer Synthesizer MEMBER

    Nov 2, 2009
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    independent thoughtist thinker, context linker
    theory to application to discussion to percussion