"12 Years a Slave," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-7

March 3, 2014
As you read Solomon Northup's "12 Years a Slave" (etext found here), learn these word lists for the autobiography: Chapters 1-7, Chapters 8-14, Chapters 15-22
On the death of this gentleman, which must have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been emancipated by a direction in his will.
He endeavored to imbue our minds with sentiments of morality, and to teach us to place our trust and confidence in Him who regards the humblest as well as the highest of his creatures.
It has also been the source of consolation since, affording pleasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, from the painful contemplation of my fate.
I was too ignorant, perhaps too independent, to conceive how any one could be content to live in the abject condition of a slave.
It consisted in throwing balls, dancing on the rope, frying pancakes in a hat, causing invisible pigs to squeal, and other like feats of ventriloquism and legerdemain.
At any rate, they immediately entered into conversation on that subject, making numerous inquiries touching my proficiency in that respect.
Their names, as they afterwards gave them to me, were Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton, though whether these were their true appellations, I have strong reasons to doubt.
Largely did they expatiate on the advantages that would result to me, and such were the flattering representations they made, that I finally concluded to accept the offer.
Their constant conversation and manner towards me—their foresight in suggesting the idea of free papers, and a hundred other little acts, unnecessary to be repeated— all indicated that they were friends indeed, sincerely solicitous for my welfare.
Brown and Hamilton advised me to retire, commiserating me kindly, and expressing hopes that I would be better in the morning.
But I would not be silent, and denounced the authors of my imprisonment, whoever they might be, as unmitigated villains.
The paddle, as it is termed in slave-beating parlance, or at least the one with which I first became acquainted, and of which I now speak, was a piece of hard-wood board, eighteen or twenty inches long, moulded to the shape of an old-fashioned pudding stick, or ordinary oar.
I prayed for mercy, but my prayer was only answered with imprecations and with stripes.
Still he plied the lash without stint upon my poor body, until it seemed that the lacerated flesh was stripped from my bones at every stroke.
He remonstrated with me against the propriety of asserting my freedom.
In rather a patronizing and confidential manner, he gave it to me as his advice, that the less I said on that subject the better it would be for me.
So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington through the Capital of a nation, whose theory of government, we are told, rests on the foundation of man's inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness!
A mulatto woman who served at table seemed to take an interest in our behalf—told us to cheer up, and not to be so cast down.
These houses are usually found within slave yards, being used as rooms for the examination of human chattels by purchasers before concluding a bargain.
She was not as tidy as when I first beheld her; her hair was now somewhat disheveled; but through its unkempt and soft profusion there still beamed a little face of most surpassing loveliness.
Jim and Cuffee were very demure and attentive to business, somewhat inflated with their situation as second cooks, and without doubt feeling that there was a great responsibility resting on them.
The sea-sickness rendered the place of our confinement loathsome and disgusting.
The thought of Randall and little Emmy sinking down among the monsters of the deep, is a more pleasant contemplation than to think of them as they are now, perhaps, dragging out lives of unrequited toil.
The death of Robert, however, and the presence of the malady, oppressed me sadly, and I gazed out over the great waste of waters with a spirit that was indeed disconsolate.
On coming to the levee, and before the vessel was made fast, I saw Manning leap on shore and hurry away into the city.
Were the events of the last few weeks realities indeed?—or was I passing only through the dismal phases of a long, protracted dream?
The latter gentleman was very loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several good points and qualities.
The man answered that he could not afford it, and then Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, weeping plaintively.
Though there was little in the prospect before me worth living for, the near approach of death appalled me.
In that event I felt an abiding confidence that I would soon regain my liberty.
There was nothing repulsive in his presence; but on the other hand, there was something cheerful and attractive in his face, and in his tone of voice.
Whether the small-pox had depreciated our value, or from what cause Freeman had concluded to fall five hundred dollars from the price I was before held at, I cannot say.
On leaving the New-Orleans slave pen, Harry and I followed our new master through the streets, while Eliza, crying and turning back, was forced along by Freeman and his minions, until we found ourselves on board the steamboat Rodolph, then lying at the levee.
In many northern minds, perhaps, the idea of a man holding his brother man in servitude, and the traffic in human flesh, may seem altogether incompatible with their conceptions of a moral or religious life.
From descriptions of such men as Burch and Freeman, and others hereinafter mentioned, they are led to despise and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, indiscriminately.
Sam knew Burch, and when informed that he was the trader who had sent me on from Washington, it was remarkable how well we agreed upon the subject of his superlative rascality.
He sought to inculcate in our minds feelings of kindness towards each other, of dependence upon God—setting forth the rewards promised unto those who lead an upright and prayerful life.
Provided the creek could be made navigable for rafts, it occurred to me that the expense of transportation would be materially diminished.
At the first note, if indeed there was more than one note in the whole tune, they circled around, trotting after each other, and giving utterance to a guttural, sing-song noise, equally as nondescript as the music of the fiddle.
He pointed upwards, and with benign and cheering words addressed us as his fellow-mortals, accountable, like himself, to the Maker of us all.

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