12 Years a Slave: My Review

I finally got a chance to see this movie yesterday.  I watched it by myself because my Family didn't want to relive the horrors of slavery on a Sunday afternoon.  I thought that Django was more brutal in terms of the depiction of slavery on the screen.  It was a fight scene between two slaves in a parlor that made me realize how powerless individuals are that have been enslaved by someone who owns them.  At this point in my life, it is much less of an issue with former slave owners.  There were slave purchasers of color in this movie.  !n 2014, it is the realization of the economic advantage that slavery allowed to the ruling class at the time.

It is not clear to me how the main character, Solomon Northup, got caught by fugitive slave catchers.  He was offered an opportunity to play music at an event in Washington, DC.  He left his family with two gentlemen who seemed to be forthcoming and honest.  Ho was enjoying a fabulous dinner in Washington and drinking wine.  Either his wine was poisoned or he became ill after dinner.  He woke up in chains and his horror story began.  I was saddened by the family that he left behind.  He had a beautiful wife and children.  In our society, it hearkens back to the many African families that were decimated by the slave raids and infighting among tribes and countries engaged in this practice.

One of the other horrors of slavery was the abuse of enslaved women by the slave owners.  12 Years a Slave depicted this abuse less graphically than I have seen in other movies.  A twist in this movie was that in the opening scene, the slave owners wife was trying to derive satisfaction from the kidnapped slave.  It was a dry act and she cried when it was over.  This same wife knew that her husband had fancied Lupita N'Yongo in the movie.  She denied her food and hit her in the face with a glass vase in a horrible scene.  She was also whipped horribly while the wife stood by in approval.  The former free man had to participate in the attack and this was a horrible scene for me to watch.

Also, it was amazing how religion was utilized to justify slavery and the social order at the time.  There were a number of scenes where the slave owner preached to a number of outwardly pacified slaves who were sitting on benches listening to whatever Scripture was being preached to justify their bondage.  The faith of the slaves was evident when one of their members had been buried after he died while picking cotton.  Solomon was enraptured during their song and joined in the funeral incantation.  Otherwise, some people can use the Bible to justify anything.

There was an article about another slave named John Davis in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.  In the late 1700's, Mr. Davis was bought to Washington County, PA by his owner.  Pennsylvania had begun to abolish slavery long before the need for Fugitive Slave laws became necessary due to the need for a nominal number of slaves to escape the horrors of bondage.  While in PA, Mr. Davis could have been freed by his owner but he returned him to Virginia and hired him out.  The only economic benefit was to the slave master though.  Mr. Davis was bought back to DC but kidnapped by slave catchers.  George Washington, a slave owner, was President at the time but refused please by abolitionists to help free Mr. Davis.  There was no extradition procedure in place and Mr. Davis never tasted the freedom experienced by Solomon Northup.

I appreciated the assistance provided by Brad Pitt's character in the film.  Mr. Northup was double crossed by a supposed friend whom he had asked to mail a letter on his behalf.  One of my favorite actors, Michael Williams, was murdered and thrown overboard early in the movie when a woman was about to be sexually abused.  The scene where Mr. Northup was reunited with his Family was great but tempered by the fact that in 1853, slavery was still in full effect in many Southern states.  This movie was based on a true story and does provide a perspective on the struggles that our society has faced, and continues to face, based on slavery and its lasting consequences.  I enjoyed the movie and appreciate my personal freedom. 

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