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12 Years A Slave– how relevant is it today?

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12 yeas a slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in ’12 Years A Slave.’ (San Francisco Chronicle/Creative Commons)

‘12 Years A Slave’ is a critically acclaimed movie that many have been discussing. The film holds so many relevancies because of the issue of slavery and the lasting impact that it has had on our country.

In the movie, ‘12 Years A Slave’ a young African American boy is born and raised in the North, as a free person. He is then captured by “fugitive slave catchers” and forced to become a slave in the South.

The film stresses the fact that even though he was never “owned” by anyone, he is immediately profiled as an escaped slave because of his skin color. It also highlights the fact that “fugitive slave catchers,” were not particularly selective when it came to hunting fugitive slaves. They often guessed when capturing slaves, especially since they were being paid large amounts of money to bring back slaves.

Dr. Daryl Mace, associate professor and chair of history and political science, shared his opinion of the film.

He shared that one of the elements of the film that makes it so relevant to the time period is that the story beginnings leading up to the Fugitive Slave Act. This particular act worked to address the role of the federal government’s role in protecting the state’s rights. This was an especially important discussion regarding catching fugitive slaves outside of state borders.

When asked whether or not he had made the decision to incorporate this particular film in his African-American-based course, he isn’t planning on it. Although he has not decided to use the film in his personal educating format, he said that he felt that it is “Interesting and good that a movie depiction [of slavery] is being considered.”

Mace is encouraged by the fact that this type of movie is receiving recognition on such a wide platform.  When asking Dr. Mace’s opinion on incorporating ‘12 Years A Slave’ into the college education system, he responded by saying “People should learn about fugitive slave laws,” in correspondence to education about African-American history. He also said that educators “Need to find a way to relay information [about African-American history], but it doesn’t need to be through this movie.”

Mace simply concluded, “12 Years A Slave is a Hollywood rendition. I would be happier if people would read the biography.”

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