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Twelve Years a Slave

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Solomon Northup

Narrated By: Louis Gossett Jr.

Date: March 2013

Duration: 7 hours 48 minutes


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 Chiwetel Ejiofor, 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
A New York Times bestseller. A USA Today bestseller. An NPR bestseller. A Publishers Weekly bestseller. An iTunes Top Seller.


  • Susan L

    This was a great and educational book. It was hard to listen to only because of the detailed, accurate description of history. Definitely recommend.

  • Anonymous

    Although hard to listen to such a harrowing story in parts, this was a very well written and narrated book

  • Nadia R.

    I absolutely loved this book and the narration. I felt as if I were there, back in history.

  • Arwa Y

    This book was difficult to read. If it was fictional it would still be emotional and painful. But the fact that this is based on a true story adds a whole other spectrum of realism.

  • Barbara Skipper

    I learned so much about slavery that I did not know. The story was never boring, and the narrator was outstanding. I am glad I took the time to listen to it on my travels.

  • Mike morgan

    Have to say after seeing the movie I was compelled to purchase this audio book. It was not what I expected, and excellent story drawn out by the Author's portentous use of the English language. Seems like he was writing to prove he was no dummy.

  • James Kattoor

    This book is so heart-wrenching and painful to read, that the only thing that enabled me to listen through it in its entirety was the knowledge that there is a happy ending, at least for the protagonist, Solomon Northup. As usually is the case with movies based on books, the book is much more detailed and intricate than the movie. Notwithstanding the powerful visuals in the movie, the book brings to life the emotions, the relationships and the characters in a much more nuanced and vivid manner that the movie did not and could not. That everything in the book is true, and that one set of human beings, no matter how uncivilized, could and did show such cruelty to another set of human beings is something that I am not able to comprehend. Yet, unfortunately, it is true, and they could and they did!

  • Angelia McLean

    Incredible story and incredibly told-Narrator was superb!

  • Melanie Anderson

    Excellent book that everyone should read or listen to. A very human story of a very inhumane time in American history. The narration is excellent!

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by Solomon Northup

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