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.
Solomon Northup was one of 400,000 free blacks living in the United States in 1841. He was living in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with his wife and three children, when two white men offered him good money to play violin for the circus they represented. Solomon jumped at the chance and soon found himself captured, beaten and transported to Louisiana, where he suffered a 12-year odyssey as a slave. Brevity, the focus on one man’s story and a lively prose style make this an unusually affecting and important narrative. 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. Unfortunately, sources are not always provided, as for a Frederick Douglass quotation on the final page, and the meager bibliography offers no sources for young readers, a shame since so many fine sources exist.
An excellent and important introduction to a man who went from freedom to slavery and back again. (afterword, time line, online resources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)