“12 Years a Slave: the identity recognization of American society for African American”—Pengcheng Li


“12 Years a Slave,” a film by Steve McQueen, is a 2013 historical drama film based on the 1853 autobiographical novel twelve years a slave written by Solomon Northup. This movie told us in 1841, before the American civil war, a black former freeman, Solomon Northup, is kidnapped in Washington, DC by two slave catchers?), and sold to Louisiana where he was enslaved for 12 years. Although this movie is based on on1841, racism still happens today. A black freeman was kidnapped in 1841 and a black law-abiding citizen is recognized as a criminal in the 21st century. Different periods but the same situation for African American people. 

One of the main themes in this movie is identity. Solomon Northup is a violin player with a wife and two children. He has a wealthy and free life. Although he claims to the slave traders that he is a freeman who can play the violin and has a wealthy life, they only believe that Northup was a runaway slave from Georgia. That prejudice was very common in 1841 because there was a great deal of slavery in the south. Plus, that is also very common in the 21 century. 

The prejudice of the identity of the African American people is always a big part of African American history. For example, in the event of Stephen Clark in (insert location and date), two police officers shot Clark, an African American man, 20 times in the backyard of his grandmother’s home. After Clark was shot the police did not immediately move to help but to wait for backup. The local police said in a statement, that at least three cars were found damaged when police responded to a report that someone had broken car windows and stolen items in a residential area.Law enforcement helicopters later spotted the suspect smashing a glass door at a home, then climbing over a fence to the backyard of a neighbor’s home, where ground police confronted Clark. They believed that Stephen Clark was the criminal. 

Solomon Northup being recognized as a slave has its roots starting in the 16th century, with the “black triangle trade,” also referred to as the slave trade. European slave traders loaded salt, cloth, rum, and so on from their home countries on the coast of West Africa. They enslaved and exchanged Africans for plantation products such as sugar, tobacco, and rice along the so-called “central route” through the Atlantic ocean. Between Western Europe, near the gulf of guinea in Africa, and the West Indies in the Americas, the shipping route roughly forms a triangle for 300 years. 

12 Years a Slave parallels the early process of African American power. In this film, One day, a white man who is a Canadian carpenter, Samuel Bass, came to build a house for Epps, salve owner, because Bass hated slavery, he sympathized with the slaves. Finally, Northup was called in for questioning by a local police officer. After answering a series of questions and meeting a fellow-townsman, Mr. Parker, he was identified as a freeman and sent back to his home state of New York. Epps, who had lost Northup, was furious and claimed to be fighting for Northup’s ownership by legal means. While we can see here that some white people hated the slave system and they want to fight for African American people’s rights. However, most slave owners wanted to prevent the process of the development of African American people’s powers. 

In 1954, the 14th chief justice of the United States, Earl Warren, led the Supreme Court to initiate a liberal “constitutional revolution” that began to destroy racial segregation and discrimination in the United States. Warren made a series of landmark decisions, including 1954 brown v board of education, the heart of Atlanta motel in 1964 and 1967 when Peter v. v. the United States case in Virginia, the ruling banned public schools and public places within the segregation, ruling 17 states, including Virginia, anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. The warren court’s decision also helped end Jim Crow, the segregation laws of the southern states. 

Both Northup and enslaved African American people looked for the help of some white people. It is evident that throughout history, the process of African American people’s rights is supported by some white people because they need help from people who are not racist.






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