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29+ quotes from Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Quotes from Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup ·  363 pages

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“What difference is there in the color of the soul?”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones - there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as it is, or as it is not - may expatiate with owlish gravity upon the bliss of ignorance - discourse flippantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life; but let them toil with him in the field - sleep with him in the cabin - feed with him on husks; let them behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they will come back with another story in their mouths. Let them know the heart of the poor slave - learn his secret thoughts - thoughts he dare not utter in the hearing of the white man; let them sit by him in the silent watches of the night - converse with him in trustful confidence, of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and they will find that ninety-nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to understand their situation, and to cherish in their bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as themselves.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“I could not comprehend the justice of that law, or that religion, which upholds or recognizes the principle of slavery;”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“...So we passed, handcuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington, through the Captial of a nation, whose theory of government, we are told, rests on the foundation of man's inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness! Hail! Columbia, happy land, indeed!”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Really, it was difficult to determine which I had most reason to fear—dogs, alligators or men!”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“And what difference is there in the color of the soul?”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“I ask no paradise on high, With cares on earth oppressed,
The only heaven for which I sigh, Is rest, eternal rest.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Eliza, stop crying, You let sorrow take over you; you will drown in it”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Credit leads a man into temptation. Cash down is the only thing that will deliver him from evil.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“My sufferings I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Alas! I had not then learned the measure of "man's inhumanity to man," nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“There's a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be reckoning yet ... it may be sooner or it may be later, but it's a coming as sure as the Lord is just”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Of course you did ; the law says you have the right to hold a nigger, but begging the law’s pardon, it lies. Yes, Epps, when the law says that it’s a liar, and the truth is not in it. Is every thing right because the law allows it ? Suppose they’d pass a law taking away your liberty and making you a slave?”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“I had not then learned the measure of “man’s inhumanity to man,” nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Ten years I toiled for that man without reward. Ten years of my incessant labor has contributed to increase the bulk of his possessions. Ten years I was compelled to address him with downcast eyes and uncovered head—in the attitude and language of a slave. I am indebted to him for nothing, save undeserved abuse and stripes.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears that the rod is for the slave's back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“My narrative is at an end. I have no comments to make upon the subject of Slavery. Those who read this book may form their own opinions of the "peculiar institution." What it may be in other States, I do not profess to know; what it is in the region of Red River, is truly and faithfully delineated in these pages. This is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have failed in anything, it has been in presenting to the reader too prominently the bright side of the picture. I doubt not hundreds have been as unfortunate as myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kidnapped and sold into slavery, and are at this moment wearing out their lives on plantations in Texas and Louisiana. But I forbear. Chastened and subdued in spirit by the sufferings I have borne, and thankful to that good Being through whose mercy I have been restored to happiness and liberty, I hope henceforward to lead an upright though lowly life, and rest at last in the church yard where my father sleeps.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Blessed be sleep! It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews of heaven on the bond and free.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears, that the rod is for the slave's back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“ever there was a broken heart—one crushed and blighted by the rude grasp of suffering misfortune—it was Patsey’s.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“They are deceived who imagine that he arises from his knees, with back lacerated and bleeding, cherishing only a spirit of meekness and forgiveness. A day may come—it will come, if his prayer is heard—a terrible day of vengeance when the master in his turn will cry in vain for mercy.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Alas! I had not then learned the measure of "man's inhumanity to man," nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Oh! How heavily the weight of slavery pressed upon me then. I must toil day after day, endure abuse and taunts and scoffs, sleep on the hard ground, live on the coarsest fare, and not only this, but live the slave of a blood-seeking wretch, of whom I must stand henceforth in continued fear and dread. Why had I not died in my young years-before God had given me children to love and live for? What unhappiness and suffering and sorrow it would have prevented. I sighed for liberty; but the bondsman's chain was round me, and could not be shaken off. I could only gaze wistfully towards the North, and think of the thousands of miles that stretched between me and the soil of freedom, over which a black freeman may not pass.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“Alas! I had not then learned the measure of “man’s inhumanity to man,” nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“They are deceived who flatter themselves that the ignorant and debased slave has no conception of the magnitude of his wrongs. They are deceived who imagine that he arises from his knees, with back lacerated and bleeding, cherishing only a spirit of meek ness and forgiveness. A day may come—it will come, if his prayer is heard—a terrible day of vengeance, when the master in his turn will cry in for mercy.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“On the way, a great many demanded it, read it, and passed on. Those having the air and appearance of gentlemen, whose dress indicated the possession of wealth, frequently took no notice of me whatever; but a shabby fellow, an unmistakable loafer, never failed to hail me, and to scrutinize and examine me in the most thorough manner. Catching runaways is sometimes a money-making business.”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“The existence of Slavery in its most cruel form among them, has a tendency to brutalize the humane and finer feelings of their nature. Daily witnesses of human suffering—listening to the agonizing screeches of the slave—beholding him writhing beneath the merciless lash—bitten and torn by dogs—dying without attention, and buried without shroud or coffin—it cannot otherwise be expected,”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


“There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones—there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as it is, or as it is not—may expatiate with owlish gravity upon the bliss of ignorance—discourse”
― Solomon Northup, quote from Twelve Years a Slave


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About the author

Solomon Northup
Born place: in Saratoga Springs, New York, The United States
Born date July 1, 1808
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