Watching Steve McQueen’s widely acclaimed 12 Years a Slave, you may find yourself wondering why it took so long for someone to film Solomon Northup’s remarkable life story. After all, the dramatic story is based on a memoir that was published way back in 1853. Then you find out that it has been filmed before, by one of America’s most legendary multi-hyphenate artists, the photographer-writer-director-musician Gordon Parks (Shaft, Leadbelly). Produced for public television, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey was broadcast on American Playhouse.
12 Years a Slave, which just won the Oscar for Best Picture, tells the story of Solomon Northup who was kidnapped from upstate New York and sold into slavery. Told from his point of view, the movie doesn’t tell what happened to his family while he was gone. This week we’ll learn about his wife Anne, who worked as a cook at the Morris-Jumel House in New York City.