Approximately 100 slave narratives were
written by enslaved African-Americans before the Civil War (as well as
many that were written after slaves were freed after the war). These
first-hand accounts of life under slavery provide valuable documentation
about the nature of racial slavery in the antebellum south. Over the
next two weeks, you will read excerpts from one such narrative, Twelve Years a Slave,
written by Solomon Northup, a free African-American in New York, and
illegally kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. He was sold to a
series of owners in Louisiana and spent 12 years enslaved on a cotton
plantation. His account provides a vivid and more personal account of
the trends in antebellum slavery discussed in this week’s lesson.
- NOTE: The book
features very vivid descriptions of physical and emotional abuse of
enslaved persons, so it may be hard to read at times. I assign this book
because it represents an important, and often neglected, voice on the
subject of slavery, and it is important to fully comprehend the reality
of the institution that shaped so many Americans lives.
In this video, I provide step-by-step instructions on how to complete your paper, so definitely worth a watch before you begin!
IMPORTANT INFO BELOW
- Read assigned selections from Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave.
- One of the main themes of Northup’s book is the way in which slavery was institutionalized throughout the entire southern society. Write a 3-4 page (double spaced) essay addressing this theme by analyzing 1-2 of the following prompt topics:
- One of Northup’s main goals in writing
this book is to encourage northerners to join the abolitionist movement
to abolish slavery in the U.S. Toward this goal, he carefully detailed
the effect racial slavery had on enslaved people’s bodies, emotions,
perspective, and lives, to present a vivid and accurate portrayal of the
horrors of slavery for white Americans who may not have witnessed
slavery first-hand. How does Northup describe racial slavery’s effect on
black bodies, minds, goals, and dreams? (Note: Be specific! You must
provide specific examples, quotes, and details from the book). On the
other hand, how does Northup argue that slavery did NOT change enslaved
people’s minds, goals, and dreams? What did you think would have been
the most compelling aspect(s) of Northup’s account, for northern white
readers? (Be sure to address ALL 3 questions if you chose this prompt)
- What laws, organizations, and social
customs does Northup mention helped maintain racial slavery in
Louisiana? Discuss several specific examples, and analyze what those
examples tell us about antebellum slavery.
- It wasn’t only slave-owners who fueled
racialized slavery. Non-slaveholders and poor whites also had a vested
interest in continuing slavery, even when it did not directly benefit
them through free labor. In what ways were all white members of
Southern society complicit in the system of slavery, whether they owned
slaves or not? What evidence from the assigned chapters can you cite to
support your conclusions?
- In several places in his book, Northup
calls attention to the intersection of race, gender, and violence by
highlighting the exploitation of enslaved women. What can we learn about
this intersection from the stories of Eliza and Patsey? How did the
institution of racial slavery effect various women in Northup’s book?
- At the end of chapter 14, Northup
argues: “It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so
much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives.” What
argument is Northup making? Really think critically about this quote—he
is NOT excusing slaveowners’ behavior. What is the context in which he
makes this statement, and what is he really saying? Note:
This is the most challenging prompt question, requiring deep analysis
and understanding this quote in context of all the assigned reading
selections, not just the couple pages surrounding it. There is a lot to
explore in this topic, but it is the most challenging to do well, so if
you’re looking for an easier/quicker paper to write, I suggest picking a
- One of Northup’s main goals in writing
- Upload your paper by hitting the red “Submit Assignment” button at the top of this page and following the instructions.
You can compose your essay in whatever
word processing program you choose: Word, Pages, Google docs, text, etc.
However, only Word Document and PDF files can be uploaded, so if you
use a program besides Word, please save your document as a PDF before
- Reminder: Compose your assignment offline and save a copy for the semester.
- You can compose your essay in whatever
- Essays must be a minimum of 3 full pages, double spaced, in 12 point Times New Roman font.
Papers shorter than the minimum page requirement will not receive full
credit. There is no penalty for papers longer than the page requirement
(write as much as you need to in order to make your argument well!)
- Essays should include an introduction
and conclusion, contain a clear organizational structure, and provide
evidence from the reading to back up your argument.
- Your essay MUST include specific examples from
the assigned chapters to support the claims or arguments you make. You
should also incorporate relevant information from the weekly lesson
and/or textbook to support your argument, and to draw connections
between the personal experiences Northup recounts and the broader trends
in antebellum slavery discussed in this class.
- You may not use any sources in writing your paper outside of the assigned readings, course textbook, and class lesson material. DO
NOT use the internet as a source for your paper. Your papers will be
checked with anti-plagarism software when you submit it. Any copying of
ideas or information from an internet source will be considered copy writing and will result in an F on the paper.
- You MUST provide citations for all direct quotes you use from the readings. At the end of the quote, use the following citation style:
- If you read the physical book, cite the page number: (Northup, page #)
- If you listened to the audiobook, you
can cite either the time of the quote you use, or simply cite the
chapter the quote is from: (Northup, 1:39:05) OR (Northup, Chapter 7).
- If you read the ebook, cite the chapter: (Northup, Chapter 7)
- Papers not citing sources will docked points.
- You do not need to provide a Works Cited page.