History Book Club

Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Library

History Book Club

Twelve Years a Slave

Book cover image of Twelve Years a SlaveThe purpose of the American History Book Club is to generate an informal discussion of major political and social issues that appear in American History. We will select a recently published book on a topic such as the Civil War or the Depression or the book behind an important film and use that work as a jumping off point for debate. Participants need not have read the whole book but simply think about the problems the book explores.

The famous slave narrative Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup is the present selection of the American History Book Club. This important story was published many times in the 19th century to advance the cause of the abolition of slavery. It gives an account of Solomon Northup's experience of being kidnapping as a free citizen on a trip to Washington and sold into slavery within sight of the Capitol Building.  It discusses the consequent loss of identity as a free man and the forced adoption of the life and persona of the slave. The historian Orlando Patterson calls this process “social death” and Northup gives us a detailed view of the horrors of enforced labor and the pain of living under the lash.

The American History Book Club meets every second and fourth Monday at the Shepherd Park Library. Join us Monday, Feb. 10 and Monday, Feb. 24 to discuss Northup's book. The first meeting may only cover the first part of the book. In the second meeting of the month, we'll try to complete the discussion of the core argument of the book.

Hope to see you there!