Racial Hierarchical Slavery System: “12 Years a Slave”

Slavery has continuously been known to be one among the foremost surprising phenomena of our world, that by itself seems as associate unnatural event stimulating mixed of feelings from every heart. From the first historical type of exploitation, a slave was the personal property of the slave owners for a number of reasons and even some kind of consumer item instead of a private human. It is evident that although the severely secure and harsh slavery system with the racial graded racism structure was eliminated with the end of the civil war, however, people are still obsessed by slaver holder’s brutally dehumanized treatment as well as of the effects this phenomenon brought about.

The movie meticulously narrates Solomon Northup’s life story as a free African man that was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Antebellum South, followed by the twelve years being forced to bear an utterly miserable life as a slave under cruel treatment of the harsh slavery system. However, his friends and family’s rescued him and he was finally free and returned New York to unite with relatives. This happy ending was rare in the Southern American before the Civil War, but there are still undeniable facts about slavery system shown in the movie which portrays the inhumane and constant brutality faces by the slaves.

As may be seen from the movie, Africans like Solomon were abducted and sold into slavery, followed by the method of slave traffic not solely on ships but also between slaveholders several times in the slave owners’ house. As shown in the movie from 29:17- 32:10, each male and female slaves while not dressed are checked whether or not they are healthy enough to be sold at a reasonable price, and buyers may make some bargain before deciding to buy any slave. Even kids like Randall Berry and Emily Berry were on sale as their mother. In spite of kindness of the master named William Ford towards children and the woman, a slave trader named Theophilus Freeman purposely separated the mother from her children, covering the trade market of slavery with bitterly crying for separation sorrow.

It is evident that African slaves were captured and exchanged as a commodity or some kind of consumer item rather than an individual human, and it was slave marketing that frustrated the happiness of family life. The fact that slaves were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names was convincingly demonstrated in series of events and scenes from the movie “Twelve Years a Slave”. Slaves undoubtedly suffered from brutal treatment in terms of not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. It is evident from the plot of the movie where after being sold into slavery, Solomon was forced to renamed “Platt” and was forced not to mention his freedom or background.

Apart from the common misery of slaves, female slaves like Patsey was additionally depressed. She was objected to brutal treatment from both Edwin Epps and his spouse even though nobody was more productive than Patsey in cotton picking at the Epps’s fields. As Epps took sexual liberties with Patsey, jealous rivalry between Epps’s Wife and Patsey developed. Unable to persuade the Epps to sell Patsey, Edwin’s wife twice assaulted Patsey with a glass jar and her sharp nails. Her poor treatment forced Patsey to find help from Shaw’s wife, made Epps angry and jealous. Consequently, Patsey was whipped naked until unconscious in the goading of Mistress Epps. Edwin Epps yelled at Solomon stating’Strike harder, or your turn will come next, you scoundrel,’ makes it evident that both male and female slaves were subject of inhuman torture and brutality. However, the women were further affected both emotionally as well as physically. Patsey is definitely the most tragic figure in the movie, a symbol for women slave’s bitter life. Every miserable fate in the film contributed to the complete reflection of inhuman treatment that slaves had to face.

“12 Years a Slave” ‘expends energy throughout its 133-minute runtime exploring the way white Christians in the American South used scripture and their faith to preserve injustice. Throughout 12 Years a Slave, Solomon asserts that God loves all of his individuals, notwithstanding race. The inherent equality among men in God’s eyes implies that Christianity could be a source of comfort and strength for the slaves, as well as the way to understand their circumstances.’ 12 Years a Slave additionally reveals the insincere underbelly of Christianity within the American South, showing the means that Christianity is terribly manipulated into a way for justifying the rightness of slavery and racism. After Solomon arrives on a sugar cane plantation, his master, William Ford, gathers all the slaves to read scripture and deliver a sermon in which he quotes from Luke 17:2, “It were higher for him that a millstone was hanged concerning his neck, and he cast into the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones.” When Solomon was sold to Edwin Epps, the oppressive owner of a cotton plantation, Epps quotes Luke 12:47 to his slaves: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” He then shuts the Bible and says, “That’s scripture.” Epps takes this verse literally and whips the slaves who pick the least} amount of cotton on a daily basis. When he incorporates a good harvest, Epps attributes it to “righteous living”; when the crops die, he claims it must be a “biblical plague” brought on by his slaves’ unrighteousness. 12 Years a Slave illustrates that religion will offer a way of hope, strength, and understanding. When Solomon wakes up from being intoxicated and kidnaped, he realizes that he has been enslaved, and immediately turns to God: “I felt there was no trust or mercy in unfeeling man, and commending myself to the God of the oppressed, bowed my head…and wept most bitterly.” Similarly, during the process of being officially sold to a slave owner, Solomon prays to God for strength: “To the Almighty Father of us all—the freeman and the slave—I poured forth the supplications of a broken spirit, imploring strength from on high to bear up against the burden of my troubles.”

In sum, the movie “Twelve Year a Slave” is such a true description of strictly racial hierarchical slavery system and brutal treatment to slaves in which “enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity”.

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Racial hierarchical slavery system: “12 years a slave”. (2021, Mar 16). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

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