12 Years A Slave Has A Significant Connection To Canada


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Those who have seen the film 12 Years A Slave already know of the important character that appears late in the film from Canada, but probably do not know the story behind him.

Samuel Bass, played by Brad Pitt, shows up toward the end of the film, and is the key figure in helping Solomon Northrup finally become a free man again.

12 Years A Slave is likely to receive several award nominations, and already receiving a great amount of attention from film critics.

The film tells the real-life story of Solomon Northup, a free man from Saratoga Springs, NY, who is sold into slavery, and forced to work on southern plantations. In the film, he is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a role that will likely get him several award nominations. It is also very disturbing, and used to depict the many horrors of slavery.

The film features a significant connection to Canada that most people are probably not aware of yet. The information has Bass' descendants overjoyed with pride, after it was kept from them for such a long time. Laurie Morris, a 50-year-old whose mother is a descendant of Bass' youngest daughter Hannah said of the relationship, "The movie is about Solomon Northup, right? But we would never have heard of him, I guess, if he hadn’t met my great-great-great-great-grandfather."

The ironic part of it is that before 12 Years A Slave was released, Morris and her family did not even know of their connection to the man who helped Solomon Northup to freedom. In a chance encounter while working on the plantation that Solomon lived, Samuel Bass, a Canadian carpenter, was able to contact his friends in the north,and vouch for Solomon's identity.

Part of the reason that his story did not come out until many years later is that Bass left Canada sometime around 1840, just before the movie takes place, when he took a variety of carpentry jobs throughout the United States. He also left his wife and four daughters, which might be why he was barely talked about in the family.

In preparation for the filming and research on 12 Years A Slave, David Fiske, a historian and author, was able to trace Bass back to southern Ontario. The connection was made through Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave and Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, a 2007 book by Sue Eakin.

Upper Canada, which is now Ontario, abolished slavery just before Bass was born, and throughout his life, he was outspoken in his opposition to slavery, and strongly spoke out against the practice, despite having a different viewpoint from the majority of others.

12 Years A Slave is being hailed as one of the best films of the year, and it helps to expose the real-life story of Solomon Northup, while also introducing Canadians to a long lost descendant, and very important figure.

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