“12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards. The film, based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, made history as the first movie from a black director (Steve McQueen) to win the film industry’s highest honor in 86 years of the awards ceremony.
In his memoir, Northup, a free black man born in New York, recounts to editor David Wilson his kidnapping in Washington, D.C. and subsequent sale into slavery. He was kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before securing his release.
The Library of Congress owns two versions: an 1859 edition from the General Collections and an 1853 edition in Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The 1859 version is available from the Library through the Internet Archive. Here you can turn the pages of the book as if you had it personally on hand. The volume has also been digitized in color to give a much more realistic impression of the book than other grayscale versions that are online of other printings.