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Posts Tagged ‘Sue Eakins’

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVEThe power of history speaks to us. In this post from November, I’m reminded of the force of narrative history and the twists and turns of the ever present “story behind the story”, that become so important to the story itself. In his Academy Award acceptance speech a few nights ago, director Steve McQueen acknowledged this when he thanked Dr. Sue Eakins, whom I noted, and wrote a short speech about, shortly after the film came out. It’s just an award, but maybe mainstream America will give a crap after all.

Heartening. Inspiring. What a twelve year old girl did with Twelve Years a Slave.

17 Nov. 2013

I have been thinking a lot lately about Solomon Northup and Twelve Years a Slave.

I always knew about him, as a kid I played and explored in the abandoned graveyard where his father is buried. He grew up on his family’s farm in Sandy Hill-today Hudson Falls- a couple stones throw’s away from my classroom, and roomed a few hundred feet in Fort Edward  from some of my greatest archaeological discoveries. All true. But until all the hype, can you believe that I had never read his book?

Fort Edward historian (and friend) Paul MCarty shows a damaged gravestone for Mintus Northup, father of Solomon Northup, who is buried in Fort Edward, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. The Northups lived in the Fort Edward area for many years. A new feature film portrays the freed slave's story from free man to slave and back to a free man. (Derek Pruitt - dpruitt@poststar.com)

Fort Edward historian (and friend) Paul MCarty shows a damaged gravestone for Mintus Northup, father of Solomon Northup, who is buried in Fort Edward, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. The Northups lived in the Fort Edward area for many years. A new feature film portrays the freed slave’s story from free man to slave and back to a free man. (Derek Pruitt – dpruitt@poststar.com)

So I searched it up, and discovered that it was a twelve year old girl in the 1920s who rediscovered this man and devoted the rest of her life to him, publishing a major work at age 88. It was her efforts that led to Solomon being re-discovered. I was so inspired that I wrote a speech on scholarship for our new National Honor Society members, borrowing heavily from her website.

My observations. Man’s capacity for evil never ceases to amaze….But also his capacity for goodness.

Read the book-his autobiography is just 99 cents. Get this version. For an additional 2 bucks Louis Gossett Jr will read it to you.

I saw the film 2 weeks after I completed the book. Overall thumbs up. No spoilers here, but the book has been verified. The film stays fairly true, though Henry Northup’s intense role in Solomon’s freedom maybe could have been spelled out clearer. Whether mainstream America gives crap is a fair question, but I’m fairly jacked up about it. Which means some students will be, too.

 **********************************************************************
~Scholarship~



In the mid-1920s, a 12-year-old girl in central Louisiana reached upon the library shelf of a plantation home and discovered a dusty copy of the book that would determine her life’s path. The autobiography that the future historian Dr. Sue Eakin became fascinated with also reverberates with us today, thanks to her drive.
Most of you know by now the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who lived in this area and who was kidnapped in 1841 and spent twelve years in captivity in the Deep South. When he was rescued, his supporters urged him to write his narrative to help reveals the horrors of slavery in the United States. The book was an immediate sensation, and along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, probably did much to hasten the coming of the American Civil War and the end of slavery. You may also know that Solomon’s father is buried in the Baker Cemetery in Hudson Falls. But did you know that his compelling narrative Twelve Years a Slave was essentially lost to history by the time of the early twentieth century, when it could not be located by libraries, stores or catalogs?

Sandy Hill. Today, Hudson Falls.

Sandy Hill. Today, Hudson Falls.


Growing up near the Louisiana plantation that Solomon was held at, Professor Eakin went on to write her master’s thesis about his story, and after decades of research, produced the first authenticated edition of the book in 1968. In 2007, at the age of 88, she completed her final definitive edition. Dr. Eakin also authored over a dozen other acclaimed history books and became an award-winning history professor, Hall of Fame journalist, civil rights leader and internationally recognized authority on antebellum plantation life.
After her passing at age 90 in 2009, her priceless historical archive was donated by her family to Louisiana State University. The Smithsonian Institute is creating a permanent exhibit featuring her Twelve Years a Slave research materials, and her family carries on her work.

In a sense, a twelve year old girl’s curiosity brought Twelve Years a Slave back to life, just as the American Civil Rights movement was dawning. May you too have the passion of the scholar, and cherish the importance of your vision and your work, and realize the impact that your actions may have on others.

http://twelveyearsaslave.org/

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