12 Years A Slave Study Guide

Below is a copy of Trinity Church's Study Guide for 12 Years a Slave.

On Monday night Trinity rented 3 theaters in Chicago and 700 people from the church went to see the film. It is a powerful film all faith communities should watch and discuss. Please use this resource if you find it helpful.

1. Solomon Northup is a free black man living in the North. The film shows Northup as a caring husband and father. It is rare to witness Hollywood films portray the image of a Black man as compassionate, sensitive and strong. How does the director show Solomon as a multi-dimensional man who is loving, caring, and committed?

2. Can you list film (not TV) characters who are black men who are portrayed as loving, caring, sensitive and strong, without a major vice (alcohol, drugs or extra-marital affairs)?

3. Part of the enslavement process was to break the will of the African, remove his/her name and force the person to live under the construct of another person's name and definition. What do you think kept Solomon from falling into despair while living in this horrific situation?

4. The film shows great brutality and beauty. What, in the film, showed you the power and genius of black people?

5. Why did the filmmaker take time to show the natural beauty of the south?

6. What surprised you most about the film?

7. Scripture is used in the film to justify cruelty, but the European enslavers change the scripture to suit their needs over and over in the film. How did the Africans in the film create a new faith to deal with the horror of slavery?

8. What do you think Solomon was thinking when He decided to sing "Roll Jordan Roll"?

9. Solomon is lynched and allowed to hang for hours standing on his tip-toes because he is educated and smart, and dares challenge his "master." How are black men today, treated in this same manner?

10. Alfre Woodard's character, "Harriet Shaw," is prophetic. What warning does she give and what truth telling does she employ for the audience?

11. Why was the scene with the Indians important to the story?

12. The painful scene of Patsy being whipped by Solomon puts the audience in the scene with Patsy and Solomon. Why was it important for the filmmaker to show this scene in this manner?

13. Women have a prominent place in the story, yet women are marginalized. How are the women in the film (black and white) victims of the system of oppression?

14. Did you notice that when Christianity or faith language is used in the film, someone else follows with economic language to demonstrate Christian faith is subject to Capitalism?