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Twelve Years a Slave was an excellent movie. It’s the story of Solomon Northrup, who was born a free man and eventually kidnapped and enslaved. Solomon was educated, well-spoken and living very comfortably. He was abducted in 1841 when enticed with a job offer to play his violin for money. It was a chance to exercise his passion and get paid for it. Imagine his happiness during this time. After working a few nights, he was drugged and sold into slavery. Solomon endured 12 years in harsh conditions, bondage, labor and physical abuse. Not to mention, he was separated from his wife and children whom he loved dearly. Without going into much detail or offering spoilers, he regained his freedom in January 1853. He was one of very few to do so in the cases of such kidnappings.
What stood out most to me was Solomon’s resilience, emotional & mental stability during these difficult years. Even though he was clearly distraught, he continued to believe in his eventual release. Even after beatings, betrayal and brokenness, Solomon kept going. People betrayed his trust several times over, but he remained committed to freedom. And, eventually he was freed again.
Another amazing thing about Solomon is that after regaining his freedom and being reunited with his loved ones, he became active in the abolitionist movement. He lectured on slavery throughout the northeastern United States, on nearly two dozen occasions in the years before and during the American Civil War. He could’ve easily just sat down and lived a comfortable and peaceful life, but instead chose to fight for his fellow man.
Solomon is just one example of someone who endured horrible tragedy only to come out and help others on that same path. Some of us have had unjustly, unfair things happen to us in the course of life. (Though I am sure they haven’t been as painful as Solomon Northrup’s circumstances.). We have a choice to either wallow, stress, fear, or remain in faith like Solomon Northrup. We have a choice to either sit down comfortably or use our story to help others going through painful ordeals. I would take it even further and say that we have a responsibility to our fellow man.
Lastly, I was especially impressed with the films capability to capture the emotion of each person in a way that resonated with your heart. Sometimes we forget & take for granted what the people before us actually went through so that we could enjoy the comforts we have today. I realize the struggle is far from over, but we are a long way from where we use to be as a nation & as a people, and for that alone, I am grateful.
*Bonus tidbit* Amazingly, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the actor who played Solomon Northrup has also dealt with a major tragedy in his life. At just 11 years old, his father passed in a car crash. Chiwetel was also in the car and the only survivor. Because of this, he became extremely focused and passionate about acting from a young age. And now he is reaping the rewards. Read the rest of his story here.
3 Life Lessons to be learned from Solomon’s story:
1. If you remain in faith, you can overcome any obstacle. Even if the particular challenge doesn’t end the way you plan or desire, maintaining faith and a positive outlook will keep you mentally & emotionally strong and healthy. Stay focused on your goals.
2. When you overcome challenges, tragedies or painful circumstances, take the time to give back & help others. People can benefit greatly from your story and how you made it though. Your pain will not be in vain. Each one, teach one. Your life is meant to be a help for others.
3. Be grateful always. Never take for granted the luxuries & basic privileges you have today. Someone before you, worked hard and possibly suffered so that you can enjoy those comforts.
The real Solomon Northrup