Twelve Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave (2013) R | 2h 14min | Biography, Drama, History | 8 November 2013 (USA) IMDb
Today we discuss the 2013 Oscar-winning film “12 Years a Slave”. We’re going to talk about
- Judging the law
- Exploring how slaves are deprived of identity, rights and humanity
- And the consequences for the society that permits it.
The Making of a Slave
It takes coordinated and systematic work to break down an individual into a slave. Solomon Northup’s story reveals this process, and the character of the men who employ it.
Armsby “Now before you say I’m just a sorry drunkard let me state my case. As reliable employment overseeing is, it is no easy chore on the spirit. I say no man of conscious can take the lash to another human day in and day out without shredding at his own self. Takes him to a place where he either makes excuses within his mind to be unaffected, or he finds some way to trample his guilty sensations. I trampled with frequency. I gave in to taste in wealth and prosperity. Such a profitable outcomes reserved for plantation masters. It’s on the lot of us to serve. Now all I want, is to earn a decent wage, and get home.”
Bass & Epps “What’s Funny?” Epps I merely mean to finish the work at hand. As requested and as paid for. “Something rubs you wrongly, I offer the opportunity to speak on it.” You ask plainly so I will tell you plainly, what amused me just then was your concern for my well being in this heat. When quite frankly the condition of your laborers… it is horrid. It’s all wrong, all wrong Mr. Epps. “What the hell? They ain’t hired help. They’re my property.” You say that with pride. “I say it as fact.” If this conversation concerns what is factual and what is not, then it must be said that there is no justice, no righteousness in this slavery. But you do open up an interesting question, what right have you to your niggas? When you come down to the point. “What right? I bought em. I paid for em’.” Of course you did, and the law says you have a right to hold a nigger. But beggin’ the laws pardon in lies, suppose they pass a law taking away your liberty? Making you a slave? Suppose. “That ain’t a supposable case.” Laws change, Epps. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, a plain and simple fact, that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike. “You callin me a nigger, Bass?” I’m only asking in the eyes of god what is the difference? “You might as well ask what the difference is between a white man and a baboon. I seen one of those critters in Orleans know just as much as any nigger I got.” Listen Epps, these niggers are human beings. If they are allowed to climb no higher than brute animals, you and men like you will have to answer for it. There is an ill Mr. Epps. A fearful ill resting upon this nation, and there will be a day of reckoning yet. “You like to hear yourself talk bass. Better than any man I know of. You’d argue that black was white, or white/black. If anybody’d contradict you? Fine supposition if you live upon Yankees in New England, but you don’t. You most surely do not.”
Solomon & Eliza After Solomon is gifted a violin by Ford, he shouts at Eliza to stop crying. “You let yourself drown in sorrow, and you will be overcome by it.” Have you stopped crying for your children. You make no sounds but will you ever let them go in your heart? “They are as my flesh” Then who is distressed? Do I upset the master and the mistress? Do you care less about my loss than their well being? “Master Ford is a decent man” He is a slaver. “Under the circumstances” Under the circumstances he is a slaver. Will you truckle at his boot? “No” You luxuriate in his favor. “I survive. I will not fall into despair. I will offer up my talents to master ford. I will keep myself hearty till freedom is opportune.” So Ford is your opportunity? You think he does not know that you are more than you suggest. But he does nothing for you. Nothing. You are no better than prized livestock. Call for him. Call. Tell him of your previous circumstances and see what it earns you Solomon. So you settling into your role as Platt then? “My back is thick with scars from protesting my freedom. Do not accuse me.” I do not accuse you of nothing. I cannot accuse. I have done dishonorable things to survive and for all of them I have ended up here. No better than if I stood up by myself. God forgive me. Solomon let me weep for my children.
From the book
“At length, as they were dragging me towards the tree, Chapin, who had momentarily disappeared from the piazza, came out of the house and walked towards us. He had a pistol in each hand, and as near as I can now recall to mind, spoke in a firm, determined manner, as follows: “Gentlemen, I have a few words to say. You had better listen to them. Whoever moves that slave another foot from where he stands is a dead man. In the first place, he does not deserve this treatment. It is a shame to murder him in this manner. I never knew a more faithful boy than Platt. You, Tibeats, are in the fault yourself. You are pretty much of a scoundrel, and I know it, and you richly deserve the flogging you have received. In the next place, I have been overseer on this plantation seven years, and, in the absence of William Ford, am master here. My duty is to protect his interests, and that duty I shall perform. You are not responsible— you are a worthless fellow. Ford holds a mortgage on Platt of four hundred dollars. If you hang him he loses his debt. Until that is canceled you have no right to take his life. You have no right to take it any way. There is a law for the slave as well as for the white man. You are no better than a murderer.”
Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave (pp. 47-48). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.