Is 12 Years a Slave appropriate for children to learn about in the classroom? Children have been learning about slavery and the subsequent civil rights movements for decades, but are teachers ready to tell Solomon Northup’s harrowing story? Well, it looks like that may just happen, as Northup’s story may be this generation’s “Diary of Anne Frank.”
12 Years a Slave’s director Steve McQueen who has been cleaning up during the awards season, is working with Penguin Books in order to encourage public schools to, “teach the story as part of slavery and Civil War lesson plans.”
According to USA Today, this may become a reality. Speaking about how important Solomon Northup’s story is to the slavery and civil rights movement.
“This story so important. It was lost for 150 years. How is that possible? I’m just so happy that the public has embraced the movie and the book.”
Even though the sales for 12 Years a Slave has skyrocketed since the release of the film, the book sold well when it was originally released. The book went on to tell the story of Northup being sold to a life of slavery when previously he had been living as a free man. The book documents how he endured horrific conditions on Louisiana plantations until he was later saved.
Penguin’s executive editor said of the importance of 12 Years a Slave being taught in classrooms:
“This is a book nobody was really aware of, except scholars in the field, which is being introduced to the country.”
McQueen has compared the 12 Years a Slave memoir to the controversial and classic memoir by Anne Frank, “Diary of a Young Girl.”
“I live in Amsterdam and Anne Frank is all around us. It’s so accessible, it’s readable, it’s so engaging. Solomon, like Anne Frank, is talking directly to us.”
Some teachers have even agreed that Solomon’s story should be taught to children and is an important piece of literature. Anne Kauth of Saratoga Springs High School in Saratoga, New York said: “I do think it’s an awesome book for 11th graders, even 12th graders.” Last year she made her students read the book for a project. Of her intent, the teacher said that she “wanted students to learn more about the north and slavery, about some of the awful stuff that was going on here.”
Looks like 12 Years a Slave is destined to be in the classroom.