Wednesday, October 23, 2013

44 Books and Resources to Help Viewers Understand the History and Context of the Movie "12 Years a Slave"

We have had some great suggestions for the proposed reading list to accompany the movie 12 Years a Slave. I would like to thank all of you who kindly chimed in on that first draft. I have amended the list, and included it below.

The next step is to develop a syllabus to go along with the film. I understand the anxiety about putting one's intellectual property online. But, if you remain so inclined, and after some conversation and editing if necessary, I would be happy to post your proposed syllabus  (of any traditional length) for a college or high school class about the issues raised by the film (and book) 12 Years a Slave here on We Are Respectable Negroes.

Social media is a great way of beginning a conversation in response to the the movie 12 Years a Slave. The next step is to go old school, do some reading, and actually meet in person to talk about the movie--as well as how the centuries-long enslavement of black Americans in the Americas resonates into the present.

Who knows? If you are in Chicago, and organize an event related to the film, perhaps I would attend and participate in your panel or reading group if invited...

1. The Autobiography of Olaudah Equiano
2. Kindred by Octavia Butler
3. Questioning Slavery by James Walvin
4. Many Thousands Gone by Ira Berlin
5. Slavery and Social Death by Orlando Patterson
6. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market by Walter Johnson
7. The Slave Ship by Marcus Rediker
8. White Over Black by Winthrop Jordan
9. Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams
10. A Nation Under Our Feet by Steven Hahn
11. A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartoleme De Las Casas
12. Stedman's Suriname by John Gabriel Stedman
13. Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon
14. Negotiating and Transforming the Public Sphere: African American Political Life in the Transition from Slavery to Freedom by Elsa Barkley Brown
15. Roll, Jordan Roll by Eugene Genovese
16. Party/Politics by Michael Hanchard
17. Trouble in Mind by Leon Liftwhack
18. The African Diaspora by Patrick Manning
19. Children of Fire by Tom Holt
20. From Slavery to Freedom by John Hope Franklin
21. The Confederate States of America by Greg Kirsch
22. "Slave Traders" in the anthology movie series Cosmic Slop
23. Sankofa by Alexander Duah
24. Goodbye Uncle Tom by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi
25. The Mind of the Master Class by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
26. Black Holocaust for Beginners by S.E. Anderson
27. Caste, Class, and Race by Oliver Cox
28. The Water Brought Us: The Story of the Gullah-Speaking People by Muriel Miller Branch
29. Jubilee by Margaret Walker 
30. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent a.k.a Harriet Jacobs
31. When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection by Norman Yetman
32. Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
33. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
34. The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638 - 1870 by W.E.B. Dubois
35. Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust by John Henrik Clarke
36. Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism by John Henrik Clarke
37. The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States by Laird W. Bergad, 

38. "Prices of African Slaves Newly Arrived in the Americas, 1673-1865: New Evidence on Long-Run Trends and Regional Differentials," by David Eltis
39. Slavery in the Development of the Americas by Frank D. Lewis and Kenneth L. Sokoloff


WORLDwrite said...

Hello, great list. I wonder if you've heard about CLR James, who wrote Black Jacobins, a book on the Haitian revolution- the world's only successful slave revolt? It might interest you and there is a documentary being made about the renowned historian and black activist and author CLR James. To more about this project visit

chauncey devega said...

Excellent book. Thanks for the link.

The Sanity Inspector said...

For anyone wanting a documentary approach, a good though densely detailed single volume history is Hugh Thomas' The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870. The author had access to the royal archives in Lisbon, and was thus able to track the earliest 15th Century Portuguese expeditions, year by year, creeping further and further down the coast of Africa. He excerpts this sympathetic contemporary account of the landing and division of a delivery of slaves. The book details how the other European countries gradually or not so gradually got in on the trade, and how they later turned against it. It goes up through the final abolition of slavery in South America, and along the way refutes the lie that the Atlantic slave trade was an invention or specialty of Jewish traders.

kokanee said...

The Kindle edition of 12 Years a Slave can be purchased from Amazon for $0.99:

Twelve Years a Slave:
Plus Five American Slave Narratives, Including Life of Frederick
Douglass, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Life of Josiah Henson, Incidents in the
Life of a Slave Girl, Up From Slavery [Kindle Edition]

SunKissed said...

Any suggestions for a book, or any of these books, that deal with the attempted erasure of Black history? I'm not talking about hiding negrotopia from us. I'm talking about how details of American history are glossed over or outright ignored. Or how attempts to discuss race or racial history are frowned upon and discouraged. Thank you.

The Sanity Inspector said...

You might start with some biographies of Carter Woodson and Arturo Schomburg, who pretty much founded the modern fields of studying black history as such. See what obstacles they had to overcome (though Schomburg was more of a collector than historian).

chauncey devega said...

That is a lie w. so much traction even in this day. I will read that second account. Have you ever used the Global Voyages database for the Transatlantic Slave trade?

The Sanity Inspector said...

No, I'm not familiar with that resource. I have used databases of old shipping manifests for interstate slave trading though, from one American seaport to another. They contain the slaves' names, age, sex, height, ports of departure & destination, and the names of the shipping firms.

vintagepeugeot said...

I'd add "The Slave Ship", "Them Dark Days" and "The Ruling Race". I've found that flipping to any page and reading an passage immediately creates a strong visceral reaction. Powerful stuff. Have not seen the movie yet, probably will.

chauncey devega said...

The Ruling Race is a great book. I need to read Minds of a the Master Class.

Persephone Jones said...

"Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South" by Deborah Gray White. This details the lives of enslaved women from birth to death. It covers their entry in the work force as field hands, domestic workers and still labor slaves (cloth weavers).

"Mastery, Tyranny, & Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World by Trevor Burnard. This book covers the detailed diaries of a British overseer of three large Jamaican plantations. He spread syphillis to many women

Shirley Hicks said...

I can't recommend CLR James enough.

Karen F. Davis said...

I am gratified to see someone is still reading the brilliant work of Oliver Cox (whom I was privileged to have as a seminar professor in graduate school). He understood the caste nature of US racial classification.

Batocchio said...

Thanks for the revised and expanded list.