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Extended Audio Sample Twelve Years a Slave Audiobook, by Solomon Northup Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (514 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Solomon Northup Narrator: Louis Gossett Publisher: Eakin Films Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2013 ISBN: 9781482916164
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In this riveting landmark autobiography that reads like a novel, Academy Award and Emmy winner Louis Gossett, Jr., masterfully transports us to 1840s New York, Louisiana, and Washington, DC, to experience the kidnapping and twelve-year bondage of Solomon Northup, a free man of color. Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853, was an immediate bombshell in the national debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War. It validated Harriett Beecher Stowe’s fictional account of Southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had become the best-selling American book in history a few years earlier, and significantly changed public opinion in favor of abolition. A major motion picture based on the book and starring Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, and Michael Fassbender released in 2013.

Hard working Solomon Northup, an educated free man of color in 1841, enjoys family life with his wife and three children in Saratoga, New York. He delights his community with his fiddle playing and antic spirit and has positive expectations of everyone he meets. When he is deceived by “circus promoters” who ask him to accompany them to a musical gig in Washington, DC, his joyful life takes an unimaginable turn. He awakes in shackles to find he has been drugged, kidnapped, and bound for the slave block in the nation’s capital.

After Solomon is shipped a thousand miles to New Orleans, he is assigned his slave name and quickly learns that the mere utterance of his true origin or rights as a freeman are certain to bring severe punishment, maybe even death. While he endures the brutal life of a slave in Louisiana’s isolated Bayou Boeuf plantation country, he must learn how to play the system and plot his escape home.

For twelve years, his fine mind captures the reality of slavery in stunning detail, and listeners learn about the characters that populated plantation society and the intrigues of the bayou—from the collapse of a slave rebellion resulting in mass hangings due to traitorous slave Lew Cheney to the tragic abuse of his friend Patsey, brought about by Mrs. Epps’ jealousy of her husband’s sexual exploitation of the pretty young slave.

When Solomon finally finds a sympathizing friend who risks his life to secret a letter to the North, a courageous rescue attempt ensues that could either compound Solomon’s suffering or get him back to the arms of his family.

“[Screenwriter John] Ridley said he decided simply to stick with the facts in adapting Northup’s book for the film…[and] he was helped by voluminous footnotes and documentation that were included with Dr. Eakin’s edition of the book.”—New York Times (September 22, 2013) on the making of the film 12 Years a Slave

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Quotes & Awards

  • “When I came across Solomon Northup’s autobiography Twelve Years a Slave I was astonished at every page; it was exactly the story I wanted to tell on film. The universality of the book, what ties it together, is family—it is the story of a man trying to return to his home. It is a story for our time, every bit as essential as Anne Frank’s diary.”

    Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, from the Foreword

  • “Delivered in the gruff, weather-beaten, but unbowed voice of Academy Award winner Gossett, Jr.…Throughout his reading, Gossett strikes a delicate balance between moral outrage, humility, and sheer world-weariness…Recommended not only for its connection to McQueen’s film but also for Gossett’s stellar reading.”

    Booklist (starred audio review)

  • “The author is articulate and proud, and Louis Gossett, Jr., carries this tone throughout his reading. Northup writes in a straightforward style, letting facts and details speak more eloquently than emotion. Again, Gossett captures this feeling. But when the author does get emotional, Gossett infuses the words with a quiet, seething power.”

    AudioFile

  • “A moving, vital testament to one of slavery’s ‘many thousands gone’ who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation. It is also a chilling insight into the ‘peculiar institution.’”

    Saturday Review

  • “I can never read his account of his days in slavery, of his independence of spirit, of his determination to be free…without believing that it would make a difference in today’s world if our contemporaries knew of such a man as Solomon Northup.”

    Dr. John Hope Franklin, past president of the American Historical Association, bestselling author, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

  • “Such a tale is more powerful than any fiction which can be conceived and elaborated.”

    Cincinnati Journal (1853)

  • “The extraordinary narrative of Solomon Northup is the most remarkable book that was ever issued from the American press.”

    Detroit Tribune (1853)

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • An NPR Bestseller
  • A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
  • An iTunes Top Seller

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steven Walle | 2/17/2014

    " This was a great book. The authur was a slave for 12 years under demanding cruel Masters. He had an amazing capasity to forgive even the most grievas punishments. He was quite a man. I recommend it to everyone. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelly | 2/11/2014

    " I read this autobiography on the recommendation of my American History 1 professor for a group project on the abolitionist movement, and I was very glad I did. I have never read Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin or any of Frederick Douglass's autobiographies, but I want to after reading the story of Solomon Northup. A free black man living in the state of New York, in 1841 Soloman Northup was lured down to Washington, D.C. by two white men who promised him a job opportunity. Instead they drugged and kidnapped him. Sold into slavery, Northup spent the nest twelve years of his life working as a slave for several different masters on various cotton and sugar plantations in Louisiana until a chance encounter with a Canadian carpenter by the name of Bass. Bass, whose abolitionist sympathies were a source of great amusement to the local southern plantation owners, wrote a letter to some of Norhtup's acquaintances from New York and was able to start in motion the process undertaken to restore the wrongfully enslaved man to freedom. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angela | 2/9/2014

    " Wow. What a great book. This is our town's annual group read, and I have to say I was quite moved by this tale of man's inhumanity to man. Solomon offers some deep insight into what slavery does, not just to the slave, but to the society that revolves around it as well. I'd love to read a follow-up to his life after he was rescued. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimberly | 2/4/2014

    " A slave narrative from a New York man who was born free and kidnapped into slavery; duped by two men who took advantage of the high price given for slaves in the most ruthless of ways. Northup found himself a slave in the one place all slaves prayed not to end up the deep south. A captivating narrative of Northup's harrowing experience as a slave, separated from his wife and kids,Northup witnessed many of the horrible experiences that could befell slaves in the deep south; including the separation of a distraught mother from her two children as they were all sold to new "masters," due to death of her current master,who was her lover and children's father,and his will, which had provided their freedom, subsequently being ignored. I highly recommend Northups narrative to anyone looking to explore the realities of life for blacks in the deep south and in free New York. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kelsey Ludemann | 2/2/2014

    " Poignant and vivid. Heartwrenching and hopeful. Just wonderful! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kelsey Ludemann | 1/27/2014

    " Poignant and vivid. Heartwrenching and hopeful. Just wonderful! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael Borshuk | 1/27/2014

    " One of the truly remarkable slave narratives. Chilling in recording Northrup's being kidnapped from freedom into slavery for a dozen years, with an incredibly detailed account of the malice and violence at the heart of the peculiar institution. A fascinating and highly disturbing document and a must-read for all students of history and American literature. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Summer | 1/26/2014

    " Read this book for class. It felt somewhat contrived at points and I wonder how much of it was true and how much was created to make a better story. Still, it was interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire | 1/23/2014

    " A fascinating account of a free black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery down in Louisiana and Texas for twelve years before being rescued. This account seems to be especially precious for other slaves in this situation and area were unable to record their experiences for lack of literacy and means to do so. Talk about a true witness to the evils of slavery for all parties involved. I think this should be required reading in schools. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 1/23/2014

    " Excellent book. First published in 1853, this is the true story of a freeborn black man from upstate New York, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. After living 12 difficult years as a slave, he finally is able to secure his freedom. The book is beautifully written, despite the horrifying truths of his story. It manages to be both genteel and brutally honest. The author does leave many details to the imagination, but he sets the stage so skillfully that there is no doubt where the reader's imagination must go. That he can maintain his sense of self and hope in spite of unspeakable circumstances is truly inspiring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire | 1/19/2014

    " A fascinating account of a free black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery down in Louisiana and Texas for twelve years before being rescued. This account seems to be especially precious for other slaves in this situation and area were unable to record their experiences for lack of literacy and means to do so. Talk about a true witness to the evils of slavery for all parties involved. I think this should be required reading in schools. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janna | 1/19/2014

    " Moving. One of those rare books that really makes an impact. Not a bright time in our nation's history, but one we shouldn't forget. I highly recommend this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katherine | 1/19/2014

    " This book was awsome. It is written by a freed black man living in the North who was kidnapped and sold to slavery in the south. It is his story. It is beautifully written, and amazingly unbiased wether it should be or not. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Fiske | 1/18/2014

    " This is a very interesting book. Northup, an educated observer, describes slavery from the inside. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Isaac | 12/28/2013

    " I don't have much to say, but no historical account has ever made me want to build a time machine and go back and kick some slaver ass as much as this one. Epps should have been gater food. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steven Walle | 12/20/2013

    " This was a great book. The authur was a slave for 12 years under demanding cruel Masters. He had an amazing capasity to forgive even the most grievas punishments. He was quite a man. I recommend it to everyone. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cristina | 12/10/2013

    " Such an important book to the history of slavery and personal experiences. Very interesting to read a first hand account of slavery and was extremely heartbreaking in some places. A great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erika Damon | 12/8/2013

    " I actually read this book for my History class and I really enjoyed it. Northup was born a free man in the north until he was kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years before his true identity was learned and he was granted his freedom. A very interesting read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Audra | 12/7/2013

    " Startling, sadly true story worth reading. Another book that should be high school required reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Audra | 12/5/2013

    " Startling, sadly true story worth reading. Another book that should be high school required reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 11/28/2013

    " Very interesting and true story about a man from Saratoga that was kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linnea Laffoon | 11/16/2013

    " I love this book! Anyone with a heart will probably cry a little, but the story is really worth it. Solomon has a great voice and remarkable memory. His life was amazing, he could be very spunky at times which likely saved his life. I'm glad he made it back to New York so he could write this book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aimee | 10/23/2013

    " Awesome book, and a true story! Thus far, it has the highest rating average of all the books I've listed (7.5, which I thought there were only 5 stars). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tristine | 10/1/2013

    " I had to read this for a history class. It was an interesting look at slavery in early America. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol | 9/29/2013

    " Great story of a freeman who was abducted and made a slave. His writing is insightful, historical and amazingly not vindictive as you would expect. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anna Claire | 9/13/2013

    " This book was pretty boring. I had to read it for school. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Isaac | 9/12/2013

    " I don't have much to say, but no historical account has ever made me want to build a time machine and go back and kick some slaver ass as much as this one. Epps should have been gater food. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel | 8/18/2013

    " Loved this book. It's probably not everybody's cup of tea but very insightful. Looking forward to seeing the movie when it comes out. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bonnie | 7/22/2013

    " "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" Santayana "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katie | 6/27/2013

    " A fantastic, honest look at a slaves experience. Brilliant! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dennis Wilson | 6/20/2013

    " A firsthand account of an educated, black free man with a wife and family who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery. A stark reminder about what American slavery was and what it did to those involved in it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 6/19/2013

    " Shocking that this story began right in my own town! A free-born black man was kidnapped & sold into slavery in the 1800's. Slave narrative story tells of his 12 years as slave down South. Our town celebrates Solomon Northrup Day each July. Recommend it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bookworm1858 | 6/18/2013

    " Excellent; very important historically; highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michelle | 6/17/2013

    " This is a really good book about how a slave lived in Louisiana "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 5/6/2013

    " Solomon Northup was a free black man that was tricked and ended up in the South as a slave. This is his story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 4/25/2013

    " An intense and amazing story. I don't know how I would have survived in the situations Northup describes. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tiffany | 4/18/2013

    " This was required reading for my Louisiana history class in college, but I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Summer | 3/21/2013

    " Read this book for class. It felt somewhat contrived at points and I wonder how much of it was true and how much was created to make a better story. Still, it was interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dennis Wilson | 2/28/2013

    " A firsthand account of an educated, black free man with a wife and family who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery. A stark reminder about what American slavery was and what it did to those involved in it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 2/13/2013

    " Solomon Northup was a free black man that was tricked and ended up in the South as a slave. This is his story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nancy | 2/9/2013

    " I would recommend this book--it is an account of a free born black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. It is a true story and relates the agonies suffered by the slaves. This is a story that makes an impression on the reader. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bookworm1858 | 10/12/2012

    " Excellent; very important historically; highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rmorgan1 | 10/4/2012

    " read for a college course decades ago and have re-read, never will forget how i felt when i read his words that he hadn't held or had access to a pencil in over a decade... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Leila | 9/20/2012

    " A fascinating account of slavery told though the eyes of a kidnapped free black man. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz | 7/25/2012

    " So depressing. Living in Saratoga with his wife and three children, Solomon Northrup is offered a good gig as a fiddler for a few weeks, so he heads south only to be drugged and shackled by the same nice people who offered him the job, and handed over to slave dealers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Devon | 7/18/2012

    " Fantastic memoir of a man's experience in slavery during the 1800's. Had to read for a class but thoroughly enjoyed it! If you like history, this is a book to check out! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Aaron Garrido | 6/26/2012

    " For a required reading, it was immersive and striking. More people should read this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katherine | 5/5/2012

    " This book was awsome. It is written by a freed black man living in the North who was kidnapped and sold to slavery in the south. It is his story. It is beautifully written, and amazingly unbiased wether it should be or not. "

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About the Author
Solomon Northup (1808 - c. 1864-1875) was an African American carpenter who was born free in Minerva, Essex County, New York, but was bound into slavery later in life for a period of 12 years. He regained his freedom in January of 1853.
About the Narrator

Louis Gossett, Jr., is one of the most respected African American actors in film, television, stage, and voice-over history with a distinct voice that carries quiet authority. A triple-threat talent with an Emmy for Roots, an Oscar for Officer and a Gentleman, and a Golden Globe for The Josephine Baker Story, Gossett is in the upper echelons of elite actors.