News / USA

    New Audiobook Revives Slave's Firsthand Account

    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

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    According to analysts, early indications are that Republican front-runner faces daunting contest against likely Democratic candidate, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton

    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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora