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12 Years a Slave: the book behind the film

As Steve McQueen's Oscar favourite 12 Years a Slave opens at cinemas, Sarah Churchwell returns to the 1853 memoir that inspired it – one of many narratives that exposed the brutal truth about slavery, too long ignored or sentimentalised by Hollywood

In 1825 a fugitive slave named William Grimes wrote an autobiography in order to earn $500 to purchase freedom from his erstwhile master, who had discovered his whereabouts in Connecticut and was trying to remand Grimes back into slavery. At the end of his story the fugitive makes a memorable offer: "If it were not for the stripes on my back which were made while I was a slave, I would in my will, leave my skin a legacy to the government, desiring that it might be taken off and made into parchment, and then bind the constitution of glorious happy and free America." Few literary images have more vividly evoked the hypocrisy

See full article on The Guardian - Film News