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March 4, 2014

Steve McQueen
A smiling Steve McQueen holds  his Oscar after "12 Year a  Slave"
won best picture at the 86th Academy Awards. (Getty Images)

Academy Award Winner Steve McQueen Thanks Solomon Northup

by Frederick H. Lowe
British film director Steve McQueen, whose movie"12 Years a Slave," won an Oscar for Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards Sunday night, thanked Solomon Northup for writing the book that led to the movie.

"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live," said McQueen. "This is the most–important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today. Thank you very much. Thank you."

McQueen won the Oscar as a motion-picture producer, the first black person to win the honor.

Lupita Nyong'o, whose role as Patsey in "12 Years a Slave" won her the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting role, also thanked Solomon Northup for telling his story.

John Ridley won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "12 Years a Slave," which is based on Northup's 1853 memoir "Twelve Years A Slave."

The memoir is the life story of Northup, a free-black man from Minerva, N.Y., who was living in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Slave hunters posing as businessmen lured Northup to Washington, D.C., with a business proposition before kidnapping him and selling him into slavery. Northup worked on several plantations in Louisiana.

Twelve Years a Slave
Twelve Years A Slave
He gained his freedom in 1853 with the help of New York Governor Washington Hunt. New York had passed a law in 1840 to recover African-American residents from New York who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The book "Twelve Years A Slave" was a bestseller in 1853 before it disappeared for 161 years. The movie, however, has put it on The New York Times bestseller list. Last week, it was No. 4 on the nonfiction bestseller list. It has been on the bestseller list 10 weeks.
Beginning in 1853, "Twelve Years A Slave" sold 30,000 copies in three years. Additional copies were published in the 19th century, but eventually the book went out of print until Dr. Sue Eakin, a writer and historian, who researched Louisiana history and the state's plantation system discovered it and brought it back to prominence. McQueen also thanked Eakin for preserving Northup's work.

Northup's memoir provides an accurate description of slave life and plantation society, say historians.

After his acceptance speech, the rotund McQueen jumped up and down while hugging the movie's cast and crew.

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