News / USA

New Audiobook Revives Slave's Firsthand Account

Greg Flakus
In the decades before the U.S. Civil War, slavery was legal in southern states and slave pens and auction blocks were located right in the heart of the nation's capital. 

In 1841, a free black man from Saratoga, New York, was kidnapped and spent the next 12 years of his life as a slave in the deep South. His ordeal comes to life in a new audiobook production of his account, which was saved from obscurity by a white southern woman. 


Academy-award-winning actor Louis Gossett, Junior, reads the words of Solomon Northup from his autobiography, "Twelve Years a Slave," which was published in 1853. It tells how Northup, a free black man from New York state, was abducted on a visit to Washington, D.C., and taken to Louisiana as a slave.

The audiobook is based on the definitive, authenticated version of Northrup's book published in 1968 by historian Sue Eakin, who died in 2009.  Her son, Frank Eakin, the audiobook's producer, said she first encountered "Twelve Years a Slave" as a young girl in a Louisiana plantation library.

“And she was enthralled because of a lot of the last names. The book was about people in that area where she grew up, so the names were familiar, the last names, the locations,"  he said.


  • A woodblock print from the original 1853 publication of Twelve Years a Slave showing the author, Solomon Northup.
  • A woodblock print from the original 1853 publication of Twelve Years a Slave.
  • A woodblock print from the original 1853 publication of Twelve Years a Slave.
  • A woodblock print from the original 1853 publication of Twelve Years a Slave.

​The book was long out of print and even after she managed to find another copy at a used book seller years later, she was told that it was all fiction. But Eakin doubted that because of all the details - the names and places - it contained, and she spent years investigating its authenticity, often with young Frank in tow.

"A lot of my childhood was on the road traveling with her," he said.  "Going to courthouses and researching every detail of that story."

Eventually Eakin published scholarly works on the 19th century slave account, and also devoted herself to fighting the racial bigotry of her own time.

"She was a Civil Rights leader. She was the daughter of a planter and ironically became a Civil Rights leader locally," he said.  "We had crosses burned in the yard; our house was burned down, twice."

Sue Eakin talked about that time in a family video.

"My black friends said, 'How in the world, with your ideas, did you survive?' I said, 'I never let it worry me. I did what I thought was right,'" she said.

And she also thought it was right that people know about the cruelty and injustice of slavery described in "Twelve Years a Slave." His mother's efforts gave Solomon Northup's story new life, said Eakin.

"It has been recognized now as one of the most compelling firsthand accounts of slavery in existence and it told a story that she truly, passionately felt had to be told."

The audiobook of “Twelve Years a Slave” is set to be released in February and a movie version starring Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Chiwetel Ejiofor will be released later this year.

You May Like

Multimedia In US, Decision Expected Soon in Racially Charged Case

Missouri town, many Americans on edge over whether jurors will indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid