IN CHAINS TO LOUISIANA: Solomon Northup's Story by Michael--Adapt. by Knight

IN CHAINS TO LOUISIANA: Solomon Northup's Story

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Twelve Years a Slave--the original title tells it--the Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation near the Red River, in Louisiana; the original story has been reprinted by L. S. U. Press (edited by Eakin & Logsdon), and also in Puttin' On Ole Massa, edited by Gilbert Osofsky (Harper & Row, 1969). The version here, less a creative adaptation than a responsible reduction, dispenses with Northup's own 19th-century floridity while retaining his quietly impassioned timbres and many of his words. The result is perhaps even more effective for its new forthrightness, more affecting for its greater tension--events are foreshadowed but not foretold. Northup (surnamed after his father's master) was born free, and lived in Saratoga with his wife and three children until he agreed to perform as a violinist with a Washington circus for a week, at the behest of two white gentlemen. His subsequent awakening in a slave pen was the beginning of his odyssey in chains to Louisiana, where he was bought and sold and traded, where he was stripped of his name and called Platt, where he learned of the sadists' whips, where his education could be his undoing, where direct reply could mean death. So Platt danced and fiddled and subsisted on boiled bacon (whose worms prompted him to invent a supplementary food-trapping method--slaves didn't have guns); he toiled in the cotton and sugar fields and as a carpenter for maniacal Tibeats who nearly murdered him more than once; he befriended Eliza who died of grief over separation from her children, and Patsy who cried because she was the favorite of Master Epps. And he managed two letters on stolen paper with homemade ink: Henry B. Northup of New York finally found him. There were investigations and there were trials, but there was no justice for Solomon Northup, nigger--he returned to his family in Saratoga and he wrote his story. It is in some ways the reverse of Equiano's, above, and it is reworked with not so much license; insofar as both documents are components of a larger story they are well beheld together--and four more Black Autobiographies are in promise.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1970
Publisher: Baron