Twelve Years a Slave, a chronicle of the amazing ordeal of a free African-American kidnapped from Washington, D.C., and impressed into slavery in Louisiana, is one of the most compelling and detailed slave narratives in existence. Although a best-selling book in its time, Solomon Northup s narrative has existed in the shadow of more academically prominent and popularly celebrated narratives like The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845). Nonetheless, Northup s account of his kidnapping and enslavement is a masterpiece of historical detail, and the narrative has been noted for its easily researched and widely corroborated elements. The text and story were virtually unchallenged by Southern apologists or partisans of the era. Northup resists the urge to laud himself as an exemplary character or focus solely his own experience, giving contemporary readers a remarkable account of the lives of the slave community as a whole. As an educated man, torn from freedom and plunged into slavery, he brings into horrible and tantalizingly exact clarity the life and labor of slaves in the antebellum American South, the complex economic choices and ironic moral concessions of slaveholding, and the calamitous effect of slavery on the foundations of civilization.