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3/04/2014 11:23 am  #1


12 Years a Slave

I mentioned on the Oscars thread, I think (or have I just said it in so many other conversations that I'm forgetting which ones I've mentioned it in...?), that I haven't yet seen 12 YEARS A SLAVE. It's a movie I want to see for several reasons -- some good, some perhaps bad:

1) I am a history person. It is in my nature to remember, to keep and analyze and teach the past, to the present, for the sake of the future.
2) I greatly admire Chiwetel Ejiofor's acting talents.
3) Similarly, I'm developing a rather enormous woman-crush on Lupita Nyong'o. In this case, I've never seen her act; my admiration is based on her real self, and I want to see her doing her professional thing.
4) It's been so critically acclaimed and I want to see it for myself.
5) I feel that white liberal need to confront, if only on a movie screen, the horrors of slavery, in a manner not at least metaphorically unlike the "reconditioning" scene in A Clockwork Orange.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think?

Today a friend on Facebook linked this blog post, which I found compelling and thought-provoking: 12 YEARS A SLAVE: For Whites Only.

 

3/04/2014 11:46 am  #2


Re: 12 Years a Slave

I've seen it - it's so, so sad.  And rough to watch, which I thought was powerful.

robinhoo wrote:

Today a friend on Facebook linked this blog post, which I found compelling and thought-provoking: 12 YEARS A SLAVE: For Whites Only.

Personally, I think this bit is misleading: This is the first instance, but not the last, where we see that the best hope for any black person to survive the circumstances is through the kindness of white people, even if those white people are responsible for their circumstances in the first place."  in that while true, what made this movie stand out to me is that it doesn't have a white saviour as a principal character (there is one at the end, but he has very little screen time), which is a rare thing for Hollywood.  I don't think there was even a single likeable white character* in the movie, which I thought was impressive given the usual pandering.

I also question the demographic audience pieces (you'll be "surrounded by white people"), but that's probably a regional thing (I was in Toronto - specifically Scarborough - when I saw it, and the audience was primarily West Indian and South Asian).

*I think maybe we're meant to think that Pitt's character is likeable, but I think there's a lot of context-dependency there that makes it less real to my mind.

Edited for spelling.

Last edited by Hervoyel (3/04/2014 5:40 pm)

 

3/04/2014 3:23 pm  #3


Re: 12 Years a Slave

I haven't had a chance to see it. But when I see movies about slavery, I have to be mentally ready for it or I will trigger all of my depression and self loathing. I could not see this movie in theaters. I would have literally gotten sick in the theater. So I'm waiting for the DVD so I can watch it alone. Like the linked article said, it would have been traumatic.

For me, this isn't just history. I end up with what people call ancestral flashbacks. It's way too direct and raw to risk being vulnerable in the theatre. I live in Seattle, where there are very few black people, and I can't risk that kind of pain. I am likely to need to pause and break it up into parts, especially just having seen the stills in the linked article. (I literally couldn't scroll fast enough paste Patsey's whipped back and Solomon hanging from the tree.)  Watching Roots on DVD made me sick, and that series is older than I am. And knowing this is a true story? That just adds pain to the pain.

The article rings very true. Black people, for the most part, know that there is a history of slavery and most of us end up looking at it whether we want to or not. Meanwhile, way too many non-black people pull the "well it was forever ago, get over it!" The snarky joke is that slavery gets 100 years back every 20 years it actually passes.

ETA:

The “white savior” is a common trope, and one with a long history, from the lionization of Lincoln, to Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, to white NGO activists in Africa, “saving” black folks from hunger, disease, or evil warlords. It is a trope, and by that I mean a fiction, created for white audiences, wherein they get to identify themselves with the “heroes”, as a counterbalance to guilt, to reaffirm their goodness, and to give them permission to distance themselves from the evils of their predecessors. In the process, it also denies black people any agency or any role in their own liberation.
 
Oh hey, the exact reason I think The Help can piss up a rope.

Last edited by Nethilia (3/04/2014 3:26 pm)



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3/04/2014 4:51 pm  #4


Re: 12 Years a Slave

Nethilia wrote:

For me, this isn't just history. I end up with what people call ancestral flashbacks. It's way too direct and raw to risk being vulnerable in the theatre. I live in Seattle, where there are very few black people, and I can't risk that kind of pain. I am likely to need to pause and break it up into parts, especially just having seen the stills in the linked article. (I literally couldn't scroll fast enough paste Patsey's whipped back and Solomon hanging from the tree.)  Watching Roots on DVD made me sick, and that series is older than I am. And knowing this is a true story? That just adds pain to the pain.

This makes eminent sense to me. I know, from my own perspective, that I have a very visceral emotional response to anything that has to do with the Shoah, even though I'm not ethnically Jewish. I hasten to add, I'm fully aware that on an existential level, the Shoah is persecution that does not belong to me, as the descendant of Welsh and Scotch-Irish Protestants. I know I myself would not automatically have been persecuted by the Third Reich for aspects of my identity beyon my control. So I don't mean to suggest that my understanding mirrors yours, Neth. But because Jewish people, Jewish history, and Jewish culture is so much a part of my daily life, I encounter books and movies about the Shoah from a place of personal identification -- it feels like I am remembering these events happening to grandparents I never got to meet, to people I know in my bones and recognize and love as individuals connected in a very real way to myself. If, despite my own ethnic separatedness, I consider my intense emotional response to books and movies about the Shoah at all valid, your experience of books and movies related to the horrors of slavery can only be exponentially more real and immediate.

This is something that I wish more white people could understand on an experiential level -- the fact that events and systems can be rooted in the past, to people who are no longer living, but still be felt in a very real, personal, experiential way in the present, by people who are very much alive. It's... I guess you could describe it as existential injustice, and it really doesn't dissipate.

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3/04/2014 5:36 pm  #5


Re: 12 Years a Slave

This is something that I wish more white people could understand on an experiential level --

This may be a bit off-topic, but I have a similar issue with this statement as I did with that linked article, in that it assumes a very specific form of whiteness and a very specific form of blackness -  and in the case of the article, an absense of the existance of anyone else.

Because on a broader level, where whiteness does not equal Anglo-American, and blackness does not equal African-American, there's a whole range of experiences of history that don't fit neatly into those two boxes.  And that's not to be dismissive of the experiences of the people in those boxes, not at all, I just think it's unfortunate to make that the framework of so many discussions - including of this movie.

ETA:  it might be an American story, but the director and lead actor are British, and it's playing around the world.  The mostly-brown audience that I watched the movie with doesn't fit into Kermit O's "For Whites Only", and wishing more white people could have a viseral reaction to stories about genocide/crimes against humanity makes me wonder if you've never met anyone from the Balkans.

Last edited by Hervoyel (3/04/2014 5:41 pm)

 

3/04/2014 7:53 pm  #6


Re: 12 Years a Slave

While I agree that this was a movie made and marketed towards white people, I found myself disagreeing with much of the interpretation of what that actually was supposed to mean versus how someone might choose to interpret the film. Obviously I’m not Steve McQueen or anyone else involved in production, but I feel like if you came away from the film thinking anything other than Solomon Northup saved himself and oh aren’t white people great, I kind of feel like you missed the point of the movie. Yes, a white man helps another white man secure Solomon’s freedom, but the only reason that’s even possible is because Solomon survived and chose not to fall into despair and give up hope of ever seeing his family again, and was willing to take risks and wait and plan and risk his life to make that possible. This is his story, he’s the hero, and he’s the one responsible for his escape. Brad Pitt just helped facilitate it. This is definitely not a film that tries to fall back on the “oh but there are some nice white people!” plot that honestly really doesn't have a place in a movie like this. I’m all for movies about how it’s in fact incredibly easy to get along with people from a different race, ethnic or religious group because hey guess what, we’re all people and it’s not that hard to not be a complete dick about things like that, but we’ve had way too many movies like that and not enough movies like this, and I really do feel like 12 Years delivers on the unflinching think on your sins attitude I think the creators were going for. Whether or not a white viewer chooses to really absorb that through their institutionally racist thinking is another question entirely of course, but I'd still like to discuss a few of the characters brought up in the article
 
So here come spoilers, and also discussion of some of the more upsetting parts of the film. I’m not intending to be graphic, but I figured I should warn people to scroll if they don’t want to see it because obviously I don’t want to upset anyone or spoil the movie if you’d rather go in not knowing all the details.
 
While certain characters are more sympathetic than others (and Mr. Parker, aka the man from New York who ultimately comes to get Solomon out of there is presented very favorably), the film really does a good job of showing how that just because not all slave owners were as bad as Edwin Epps (Fassbender’s character) doesn’t mean they weren’t pretty awful people. Apparently, the film’s assessment of William Ford (Cumberbatch) is actually way less favorable than Northup’s opinion of him in the book, because they really rub it in your face that hey, here’s this guy who seems like a decent human being, but he owns people. And never offers to free Solomon even though it’s clear he knows he’s educated and might not actually be a slave at all. And listens to his wife and gets rid of a woman who’s desperately depressed because she’s been taken away from her children, and ultimately sells Solomon to someone he knows is a monster because he thinks he’s “helping” him. In the book (I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read several discussions of book to movie differences and this is always brought up), Northup is a lot more forgiving of Ford than McQueen is trying to make you be in the film. Northup explains that he thought if Ford had been raised in a different society, he would have been a wholly decent man and appears to still have a lot of good will to extend to him even after everything. The film should not leave you with the same feeling, because you can kind of see the good elements in there, but then you’re reminded hey, this guy is an asshole. And the fact that he can be decent almost makes him harder to swallow because you know he should know better than this. I honestly don’t think his role in the film is supposed to make you feel good about a white person’s kindness, and that it’s the only hope a black person has to survive in this environment, you’re supposed to be angry that this guy does literally nothing but make the situation worse instead of stopping it when he in theory has the power and authority to do so, and the knowledge that something horrible is going on. Usually in movies, a guy like this is presented as a genuinely good person who just happens to own other people, but that's okay because he's nice and doesn't treat them badly and oh isn't Tara so pretty and look at my puffy dresses. This is the first movie where I've ever seen that stereotype really turned on its head, and I think 12 Years does a really good job of doing so because you're kind of almost expecting him to be like surprise, I'm really a decent person after all, this has all been a huge mistake! This is also played with with Garret Dillahunt's character, who's another white man in a position to be a "savior" to Solomon, and we as the audience are led to believe that maybe he will help him. But then despite being someone who literally doesn't benefit from the institution of slavery at all anymore, he throws Solomon under the bus because he's a greedy, selfish, racist bastard, and it's Solomon who manages to get out of that situation himself, not because Epps suddenly decides he's secretly a really nice person after all.
 
Samuel Bass (Pitt’s character) is also an interesting case, because even though he’s an abolitionist, he’s still intensely reluctant to help Northup at first. He’s obviously going to be putting his life at risk to do anything for him, and instead of being like YEP OKAY I WILL DO THIS, SEE WE’RE NOT ALL BAD, he really needs to be talked into it. Again, kind of refreshing to show that even someone who thought slavery was wrong would be reluctant to actually take steps to do much about it, and notice that again, he doesn’t try to liberate everyone on the plantation or go all John Brown on Epps’ ass. He makes it easier for someone to find Solomon, and that’s it. One of the most upsetting moments of the entire film for me was watching Solomon say goodbye to Patsey, because she and everyone else and thousands of other people the film can’t touch on because of plot/time restrains are still stuck in this hell, and you know no one is going to do anything about it for years after Solomon leaves, and that even once slavery’s over, that doesn’t mean things are going to be all fun and happy.
 
Even Solomon’s “savior” and the parallel scenes the author mentions I think deserve a different look: if you look at the screencaps included, Abrams is hunched over with his master’s arm around him protectively, and the man towers over him as Abrams smiles up at him. Solomon is Mr. Parker’s equal in height (except for the hat) and hugs him face to face, like you would with a friend, not a parent you’re looking for shelter with. I hadn’t realized the parallelism in these scenes before now (I’ve only seen the movie once, and honestly by the end I was a little too emotional to be thinking clearly about staging) and I definitely think it’s interesting that they sort of are, but again, I feel this presents Solomon and Mr. Parker as equals and friends, not with Parker clearly being his better.
 
Basically, I think the film really runs the gamut of white perspectives and moral lines (it does this with its black cast, too, I honestly feel like as close to every possible perspective of slavery in this part of the world at this point in history is touched on at least briefly over the course of the film) without presenting a character as a OH WELL THERE ARE SOME NICE WHITE SLAVE OWNERS/SOUTHERN PEOPLE stand in. This was a really refreshing contrast to the usual Shirley Temple Littlest Rebel bullshit and I thought they did a really successful job of displaying all the complications of living in this society without making you feel actively sorry for the white characters because guess what: they’re the bad guys, here. Yes, it’s a complicated issue and yes it sucks that Mrs. Epps married a crazy person and is effectively stuck with him until one of them dies, but that still doesn’t excuse her treatment of Patsey or any of the other slaves, and if someone thinks it does, they’re the one with the problem, not the film.
 
On the other side of the spectrum, I honestly can’t point to a character and say there, there is the villainous black person. Characters are flawed, and have different ideas on how to secure what they want (which ranges from trying to escape, starting uprisings, acting as white as possible in an attempt to fit in and just accepting their circumstances because anything else seems very far off and impossible), but they’re all ultimately portrayed as sympathetic people who are trapped in the worst circumstances imaginable and are just trying to survive. Solomon is 100% both the hero and the protagonist of this story, and – to compare it to a movie that got a lot of similar criticism – he is not Django. No white guy swoops in, frees him and then teaches him everything he needs to know to survive. He’s already an exceptionally talented intelligent man who has to rely on himself to survive, and his trusting in a white person to save him because he has no other option actually nearly gets him killed twice. That, to me, does not feel like an arc that owes much to the kindness or benevolence of white people.
 
However, despite all that, I really don’t disagree with the author of the linked article’s points. There are going to be a lot of horrible people coming out of the theater going on about how oh look at how far we’ve come and wasn’t it nice that Brad Pitt saved the day, but I don’t think that’s what McQueen or the actors were hoping people would take away from the film at all. This movie shouldn’t make you feel great about being white because you’re always the hero, it should make you uncomfortable because you’re not, and this is a movie that does its best to not let you forget that. I do think it’s something every white American should see because I’m tired of hearing about how people were ~so shocked~ to hear about the level of violence presented in 12 Years, because I wasn’t shocked. I was upset and incredibly angry, but I wasn’t surprised. It’s disgusting how ignorant people can be and are on this subject, and I want everyone who’s ever tried to brush this off as not a big deal to walk out of the theater doing some serious thinking about
 
I know a lot of people won’t. Probably even the vast majority won’t, because it’s easier to pat yourself on the back and choose to interpret the film in your safe way because you think racism’s dead and nothing bad ever happens anymore, but again, I really don’t think that reaction is the fault of the film or the people who made it. I don’t think I need to tell you guys that it’s part of a bigger problem in society that no one film can hope to address by itself, but I hope it opens at least more people’s eyes and helps make this a topic studios are more willing to address again, instead of just sugar coating it to make it palatable and safe for a white audience.
 
TL;DR, I really agree with some of the author of the article you linked’s points, and respectfully really disagree with some of the others. I definitely don’t think they’re wrong in their interpretation of how people will walk away from the movie and holy shit, some of the marketing for it has been pretty sketchy, looking at you, Italy, but I personally feel like the film does a much better job of exposing the evil in this system than pretty much any other film ever has than they’re giving it credit for. I know I personally haven’t heard any feedback about how uplifting and inspirational and thank god for white people viewers came away with, but rather a lot of commentary on how horrified they were by how bad things were, because they honestly just never realized it before.
 
And because of that, I’d definitely recommend viewing it with discretion. Regardless of how well prepared you are for it, it’s an extremely viscerally upsetting film and it doesn’t get easier as it goes along. If there’s anything that you know specifically triggers you, I would check out the film’s description on a site that lists triggers with timestamps if you can find one and would recommend checking one a site like that regardless if you’re concerned about what you’re signing up for. While I’m not sorry I saw it in theaters (as strange as this is to say about something with such upsetting subject matter, it’s a beautifully shot film and it looked incredible on the big screen), I will admit I was either crying, shaking with rage or both at various points throughout the movie, so if you’re not comfortable being that emotive outside of the comfort of your home, renting it might be the best option.
 
I’ve also been pleased to hear very little historical criticism of the film. Some things have been tweaked and added to the story (I already mentioned the different opinions of Ford, but there are others), but none of it sticks out like a sore thumb or otherwise feels out of place. Since you said you’re a fan, Chiwetel Ejiofor was incredible and I’m kind of devastated (if again, not shocked because lol Hollywood :|) he didn’t win best actor. I just can’t say enough good things about him and the rest of the cast because everyone did an outstanding job, but I especially don’t think you’ll be disappointed by Lupita at all, in any universe. I literally cannot imagine how terrifying it must have been to have your first role be something not only alongside really famous and successful people, but also be something that’s just full of such emotion and suffering. Like, I’m sorry Entertainment Weekly, I like Jennifer Lawrence too, but please tell me how her role in American Hustle was somehow so much more shocking and difficult for a young actress?
 
… This got super long and for that I apologize, I just have a lot of feelings about this movie particularly because I’m so grossed out by how many people apparently had no idea slavery was this bad, at least somewhat thanks to Hollywood in the first place and I'm glad to see a movie where the focus is on a black character and how horrible slavery actually was, not on how he overcame and learned to dance and sing with a cute little white girl because race doesn't matter and the south shall rise again. I definitely think there’s a lot of truth in saying that this movie was made for white people and specifically white Americans, but because so many white Americans have a difficult time accepting or even acknowledging the horrors of slavery and this is a really in your face, you can't ignore this piece, I think that's a good thing. I also think if someone’s choosing to see the white characters as sympathetic or proof of white superiority, they’re really missing the point and might need to do some serious self-evaluation, because literally all but one of the white characters is a genuinely terrible person, and the one who isn’t is in the movie for maybe three minutes total. This is totally Solomon’s story, and if it’s about white Americans, it’s about how shitty and evil they are when it comes to institutionalized racism, not how ultimately good and wonderful we are and always have been. None of the white characters find anything close to redemption, none show remorse except when it's coming from a place of selfishness, and slavery isn't magically abolished at the end of the film. Any white American who walks away from it saying oh thank god there are some good white people out there is an asshole, and you should tell them as such, loudly.

*Edited for a pronoun error, my bad

Last edited by Pixie Boots (3/04/2014 8:47 pm)


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3/04/2014 10:23 pm  #7


Re: 12 Years a Slave

Hervoyel wrote:

This is something that I wish more white people could understand on an experiential level --

This may be a bit off-topic, but I have a similar issue with this statement as I did with that linked article, in that it assumes a very specific form of whiteness and a very specific form of blackness -  and in the case of the article, an absense of the existance of anyone else.

Because on a broader level, where whiteness does not equal Anglo-American, and blackness does not equal African-American, there's a whole range of experiences of history that don't fit neatly into those two boxes.  And that's not to be dismissive of the experiences of the people in those boxes, not at all, I just think it's unfortunate to make that the framework of so many discussions - including of this movie.

ETA:  it might be an American story, but the director and lead actor are British, and it's playing around the world.  The mostly-brown audience that I watched the movie with doesn't fit into Kermit O's "For Whites Only", and wishing more white people could have a viseral reaction to stories about genocide/crimes against humanity makes me wonder if you've never met anyone from the Balkans.

That's a really good point, @Hervoyel. I've been aware of a certain discomfort with myself when I make comments about "most white people" or something like that. I'm genuinely not sure how to describe who I'm talking about in a way that's not overly generalized. Any suggestions?

@Pixie Boots, thanks so much for your thoughts; your post was such an interesting read! I'm more motivated than ever to see the movie now, so that I can interact more intelligently with what you're saying. Maybe I'll get a chance to see it on Thursday. I must lay my plans!

Last edited by robinhoo (3/04/2014 10:27 pm)

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3/05/2014 7:22 pm  #8


Re: 12 Years a Slave

Nethilia wrote:

I haven't had a chance to see it. But when I see movies about slavery, I have to be mentally ready for it or I will trigger all of my depression and self loathing. I could not see this movie in theaters. I would have literally gotten sick in the theater. So I'm waiting for the DVD so I can watch it alone. Like the linked article said, it would have been traumatic.

For me, this isn't just history. I end up with what people call ancestral flashbacks. It's way too direct and raw to risk being vulnerable in the theatre. I live in Seattle, where there are very few black people, and I can't risk that kind of pain. I am likely to need to pause and break it up into parts, especially just having seen the stills in the linked article. (I literally couldn't scroll fast enough paste Patsey's whipped back and Solomon hanging from the tree.)  Watching Roots on DVD made me sick, and that series is older than I am. And knowing this is a true story? That just adds pain to the pain.

The article rings very true. Black people, for the most part, know that there is a history of slavery and most of us end up looking at it whether we want to or not. Meanwhile, way too many non-black people pull the "well it was forever ago, get over it!" The snarky joke is that slavery gets 100 years back every 20 years it actually passes.

ETA:

The “white savior” is a common trope, and one with a long history, from the lionization of Lincoln, to Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, to white NGO activists in Africa, “saving” black folks from hunger, disease, or evil warlords. It is a trope, and by that I mean a fiction, created for white audiences, wherein they get to identify themselves with the “heroes”, as a counterbalance to guilt, to reaffirm their goodness, and to give them permission to distance themselves from the evils of their predecessors. In the process, it also denies black people any agency or any role in their own liberation.
 
Oh hey, the exact reason I think The Help can piss up a rope.

 
Neth, if you are going to read my mind, I need warning. Thanks! ;)


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3/05/2014 11:53 pm  #9


Re: 12 Years a Slave

Pixie Boots wrote:

*Snipped for length*

As they say, your post gave me life. This is probably one of the best analysis I've seen for the movie that doesn't immediately focus on the whole "But Brad Pitt saved him and Mrs. Epps suffered too and anyways slavery was forever ago and some masters were nice" bullshit that generally comes with movies on slavery and Civil Rights. From what you tell me, this movie doesn't have White Saviors. I'm still likely to freak out watching, but that helps.

When I saw GwtW and Scarlett--who we're supposed to ID with as the damned heroine--threatened to sell Prissy south, I had a micro meltdown. I just couldn't.



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3/08/2014 2:16 am  #10


Re: 12 Years a Slave

Hervoyel wrote:

This is something that I wish more white people could understand on an experiential level --

This may be a bit off-topic, but I have a similar issue with this statement as I did with that linked article, in that it assumes a very specific form of whiteness and a very specific form of blackness -  and in the case of the article, an absense of the existance of anyone else.

Because on a broader level, where whiteness does not equal Anglo-American, and blackness does not equal African-American, there's a whole range of experiences of history that don't fit neatly into those two boxes.  And that's not to be dismissive of the experiences of the people in those boxes, not at all, I just think it's unfortunate to make that the framework of so many discussions - including of this movie.

ETA:  it might be an American story, but the director and lead actor are British, and it's playing around the world.  The mostly-brown audience that I watched the movie with doesn't fit into Kermit O's "For Whites Only", and wishing more white people could have a viseral reaction to stories about genocide/crimes against humanity makes me wonder if you've never met anyone from the Balkans.

I have an issue with the statement for the same reason. Going through my own lineage through my four grandparents, three of four lineages owned no slaves. Two (dad's side) did not show up in the US until well after the Civil War. I think I mentioned how my mother found out she's Cherokee, that my maternal grandfather hid his entire ancestry from his children, and even swore his in-laws to secrecy, that he was able to hide because he could pass for white, that one of my uncles converted to Mormonism and in 1994 decided to do his family tree and discovered all my grandfather's hidden secrets.

One of the more disturbing findings was that my maternal grandfather is related to an abolitionist who fled the south in the 1850s and moved to Illinois. Apparently his father owned a plantation somewhere in Alabama (my uncle knows where; I was twelve when I was told this) and at some point in the late 1840s decided to free all the slaves he had and form a branch of the Underground Railroad. The former master of the plantation, his wife, all five of their grown children and their former slaves got caught and a whole lot of ugly ensued. Namely, lots of lynchings. The former master was killed, three grown children killed, countless slaves were killed. The surviving members of the former slave owning family fled the area, as did many of the former slaves. A family occupies the former plantation house to this day, the descendants of one of the slaves. My uncle went looking for the house after he found out he was related to the original owner of the house, wanting to know what happened to the man. The family that lives there wanted to meet the descendants of their ancestor's former slave master. Information was shared. He keeps in touch with them. According to them, the lynchings and shootings of the remaining former slaves did not cease until the 1960s, and the Klan was also an issue. My ancestor fled in secret, and further, the town where the plantation is went to great lengths to scrub any and all records relating to both the white family and the slaves who lived there. I'm amazed the house still stands. Both my mother's family and the descendants of the former slaves have voted to NOT turn the house into a museum or a memorial, because it still hurts to this day regarding what happened there. Alabama is dead last on states I want to visit. I know not everyone in Alabama was involved in the incident, but I think of what I was told at twelve, and it makes me sad.

The former slaves all have the same last name as my mother - they adopted it after they were freed. My mother told me that if I encounter anyone who is black with her maiden name, chances are very high that that person is the descendant of my ancestor's slaves, one of the few who escaped being lynched after getting outed as a abolitionist.

At the end of Twelve Years a Slave it mentions that no one knows what happened to Solomon Northup, but the movie also mentions that he was an abolitionist. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he ended up murdered. Contrary to popular belief, if you got outed as a true abolitionist - one who not just speaks but acts against slavery, there were consequences.

I think movies like 12 Years a Slave have a place. They do teach history.  But they teach a rather nice packaged version of it. Solomon Northup is like the Schindler Jews. One of history's lucky ones. He went through hell, but he got out. Most black people did not, and the ones who survived the freeing of the slaves in the 1860s ended up poor sharecroppers. But you will never see that on the big screen - it doesn't make money, it won't make people feel good, and it doesn't fit in a nice box that shows the good of the world. I didn't get that any of the white people were benevolent in this movie at all, save for perhaps the shopkeeper in the end. Most of them would do something nice - of their own selfish ends.

I just hope at some point the idea of the noble northerner ends up dead. This movie killed it somewhat, but its still there. The reason my grandpa and his ancestors hid their story, the the way, is because in Illinois, land of Lincoln, the Klan got big, grew to gargantuan proportions in the 1930s, and Grandpa could pass, so he did, and to protect his children, he told them nothing of their Cherokee ancestry or the fact that they were related to very active abolitionists who ended up hanged by an angry mob. According to him, the Klan was still big in the area until right around when my mother graduated high school in 1977.

Last edited by cactusflower702 (3/08/2014 2:21 am)

 

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