Nov 052013
 

Twelve Years a Slave – And Plantation Life in the Antebellum South  is a narrative by Solomon Northup as told to David Wilson. It was published in 1853. As Harriet Beacher Stove’s novel, Uncle Ben’s Cabin (1852) ,Northup’s true story book became a bestseller as well.

Solomon Northup was a married African-American man and father, who was born free in Saratoga Springs, New York, but kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841, sold into slavery, and kept in bondage on major plantations in Louisiana for twelve years – nine of those in Avoyelles Parish (Vincent Simmons’ home parish). Avoyelles judge Ralph Cushman eventually granted Northup’s freedom.

More than 100 years later, Dr. Sue Eakin, a historian, journalist and professor from Bunkie in Avoyelles Parish, re-discovered the book while researching Louisiana’s history. She co-edited the 1853 slave diary by Northup. The LSU Press published it in 1968.   

Audio Book

A 2013 British-American drama film on the story starring among others Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup,  Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps (a cruel plantation owner) and Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass (a Canadian carpenter who is a key player in Northup’s liberation) and directed by Steve McQueen was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures on October 18, 2013. The locations, where the movie was filmed, were in Jefferson Parish and in New Orleans.

Press Conference in Toronto, Canada

The press conference in Toronto, Canada, began with the question if the movie was about race. In response, Director McQueen rolled his eyes and stressed that he had wanted to make a film about slavery since he (and many others who contributed to this project) was a part of that history. It is not just about race. It is beyond that. He made clear that race was just involved – it was just a part of it.

Protagonist Ejiofor expressed it simply: It is about human dignity. The leading actors of 12 Years A Slave agreed that the story is very complex. It is beyond clichés. One cannot judge in black and white. It is about love and pain. Every one of the audience probably can identify with something or someone.

Basically, there is no difference between being a slave (Solomon Northup), who was born free, then kidnapped and sold into slavery, and being a prisoner (Vincent Simmons) for a crime he did not commit. Both the slave and the prisoner have illegally lost their freedom and are victims of  a system that is terribly manipulated by money interests. Slavery is the past – prison industry is the present.

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Read about the first Northup Freedom Fest (November 2, 2014) in Marksville at http://vincentsimmons.iippi.org/2014/10/30/freedom-fest/

This article of the local Avoyelles Today might interest the historian or tourist in you:
Renovated Epps House dedicated at LSU-A

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Jul 022012
 

book-cover

Book Cover

By Jeffrey Collins of New York (USA)
June 24, 2012

After reading this well written book [Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish] by Ms. [Katja] Pumm, I can very much say that she really did her research into a system that is mostly one-sided and very much saturated with lies. I believe that there are not too many people who can write a book about an individual’s innocence and the injustice of the criminal system without experiencing it first-hand. But, Ms. Pumm’s book actually comes really close and I think that is because she has put her heart into it.

I am an individual who has spent twenty (20) years in prison for a crime I did not commit, and that injustice continues as I write this review. So, I do see and understand the plight of Mr. Simmons.

The very first inquiry into a criminal case is the most trustworthy. An individual who looks (investigates) into a criminal case can be certain to find the truth of what happened and if the accused is indeed responsible.

The three (3) alleged victims in the Simmons case were indeed hiding something. I felt that they were untruthful about the gun and knowing the defendant’s name. It is a known fact, once you lie, you have to continue to lie or else the truth will reveal its self in due time. So the three alleged victims had to continue in their untruthfulness, when they were given support by those in authority, which were also family members and politicians.

What should be an eye opener for people who do not really understand what goes on within the legal system, is the fact that a man (Mr. Simmons) could receive 99 [100] years for a charge of attempted aggravated rape of two females, when such a charge was never voted on by the ‘Grand Jury’ who has to vote a true bill before an accused can plea to a charge. Also, if the facts given by the alleged victims state that they were raped, where does attempt fit into the charge?

For those lay individuals of the legal system, in order of a District Attorney to amend an indictment (Change of Charge), it has to present the amendment to the grand jury for them to vote on a superseding indictment. They are not supposed to just change the charge without going through the proper procedures first. But as Ms. Pumm pointed out, this is one of the many abuses that are taking place in the ‘legal’ system to this day. And it goes unnoticed by lay individuals. One of the main reasons why it continues is due to there being no accountability, or shall I say very little accountability by those who violate the law.

The law does not care about the truth of the matter at hand as [an] individual may assume. Law is only concerned with rights and interest of property. This is laws’ (constitutions’) main focus, property rights. Criminal law, as it is called derived from property rights law, which is commercial law. Therefore, criminal law is ‘Legal’ Rules and Procedures of Commercial Law. So, the key to understanding the very much complex criminal law, you must begin with understanding law merchant… They are intertwined.

I thank you, Ms. Pumm, for first being understanding to the plight of those innocent in prison and for this wonderful book.

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