Monday, February 17, 2020

Twelve Years A Slave

This is an article I wrote back in 2013. Since it's Black History Month, I thought I'd post it again. I did eventually see the movie Twelve Years a Slave, and even ordered a copy for myself. However, I haven't had the courage to watch it again. Excellent movie, but quite painful to watch.

When I started writing The Unchained Trilogy, I read several slave narratives to help me with my research. I had not read Twelve Years a Slave, and wasn't even familiar with it.  But now I have the opportunity to read the book--and see the movie.
Solomon Northup
If you're like me, and unfamiliar with the real Solomon Northup, here's some information, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Solomon Northup (July 1808 – after 1857) was a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs, New York. He is noted for having been kidnapped in 1841 when enticed with a job offer. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington, DC, they drugged him and sold him into slavery. From Washington, DC, he was transported to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner from Rapides Parish, Louisiana. After 12 years in bondage, he regained his freedom in January 1853; he was one of very few to do so in such cases. Held in the Red River region of Louisiana by several different owners, he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the Governor of New York, Washington Hunt in his cause. New York state had passed a law in 1840 to recover African-American residents who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Slave narratives are fascinating, but very sad and truly difficult to read.  Although reading Solomon Northup's story will be heart wrenching, watching the movie will be even more tortuous.
Scene from Twelve Years a Slave
According to The Boston Globe:
Hollywood’s portrayals of American slavery have run the gamut — from all but romanticizing it in “Gone with the Wind” to riffing ironically on it in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” A new film, “12 Years a Slave,” offers something different: a faithful, unvarnished depiction of everyday life as a slave, and of all the horrors that went with it. Based on the 1841 kidnapping into slavery of Solomon Northrup, a free black man from Saratoga, N.Y., the film is told from a  slave’s point of view, with Northrup’s agony eloquently portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor. One thing that comes through is the arbitrariness of the institution; slaves deemed unsatisfactory or rebellious were whipped, or strung up, in a blind rage by their owners. Other owners harbored moral conflicts about the “peculiar institution,” but nevertheless allowed slaves’ families to be broken up.   
I want to say I'm looking forward to seeing the movie--and I am--but it'll be hard. I'll be sure to have tissues handy.

Is Twelve Years A Slave on your "To See" or "To Read" list?  If you've had a chance to read it, or a seen the movie, what did you think?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The First Academy Awards

Douglas Fairbanks presents Janet Gaynor with
the Best Actress Award at the 1st  Oscar Ceremony 
Last night the 92th Academy Awards Show was televised live! The stars, the crowds, the clothes, the jewels! Nowadays the Oscars are quite the spectacle, but how did it all begin? Here's a little information from Wikipedia:

In 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was established by Louis B. Mayer, originator of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation, which then would be joined into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Mayer's purpose in creating the award was to unite the five branches of the film industry, including actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. Mayer commented on the creation of the awards "I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them ... If I got them cups and awards they'd kill them to produce what I wanted. That's why the Academy Award was created". Mayer asked Cedric Gibbonsart director of MGM, to design an Academy Award trophy. Nominees were notified through a telegram in February 1928. In August 1928, Mayer contacted the Academy Central Board of Judges to decide winners. However, according to the American director King Vidor, the voting for the Academy Award for Best Picture was in the hands of the AMPAS founders Douglas FairbanksSid Grauman, Mayer, Mary Pickford and Joseph Schenck.

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 1927 and 1928 and took place on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los AngelesCalifornia. AMPAS president Douglas Fairbanks hosted the show. Tickets cost $5 (which would be $69 in 2016 considering inflation), 270 people attended the event and the presentation ceremony lasted fifteen minutes. Awards were created by Louis B. Mayer, founder of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation (at present merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). It is the only Academy Awards ceremony not to be broadcast either on radio or television.

How times have changed! I used to watch the Oscars every year, at least until 11:00, however, I haven't watched in years. But how about you? Did you watch the awards ceremony last night? And if so, did you stay up for whole thing?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Insight From Frederick Douglass

At the start of Black History Month, I'm sharing this article about Frederick Douglass form PBS.org:

"Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference," wrote Frederick Douglass, a leading American abolitionist and former slave. Douglass rejected all biblical justifications of slavery after living under the cruel institution himself. Born in Maryland in 1818, his master's wife taught Douglass to read at a young age, and Douglass shared this knowledge with other slaves, encouraging them to read the New Testament and interpret Jesus Christ's message of equality. But Douglass rejected all Biblical justifications of slavery.

After escaping slavery, Douglass settled in New Bedford, Mass., and joined an integrated Methodist church where he attended anti-slavery meetings and befriended fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison encouraged the young Douglass to become an anti-slavery lecturer, and in 1845, Douglass published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book quickly became a best seller, reprinted nine times and translated into French and Dutch.

Douglass started a weekly journal, The North Star, where he challenged his readers to question the contradiction between America's Christianity and the institution of slavery. Speaking before packed houses in Great Britain and America, Douglass attacked Christianity for not only permitting the continuation of slavery but also encouraging its expansion: "The church and the slave prison stand next to each other. ... [T]he church-going bell and the auctioneer's bell chime in with each other; the pulpit and the auctioneer's block stand in the same neighborhood."

Though Douglass was initially disappointed that Abraham Lincoln did not advocate for an end to slavery at the beginning of the Civil War, he was overjoyed when the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation. After Lincoln's Second Inaugural the president welcomed Douglass into the White House and was pleased to learn that Douglass approved of his speech.

After Lincoln's assassination, Douglass said of the late president: "Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?"

Both of my kids have read the Narrative of the Life of  Frederick Douglass for their English classes, but I'm ashamed to admit I haven't, but it is on my to read list! Have you read it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!