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Genovese and Northup Essay written by Joe Masters Slavery as a global institution tends to have an unreal aura surrounding it Modern perspectives cannot be empathetic because it is not an institution even partially realized in the last century of American life This is why even through reading Eugene Genoveses Roll Jordan Roll and examining most of the aspects of slave life slavery still remains a mystery in the personal sense Solomon Northups Twelve Years a Slave in addition to being one of Genoveses own resources fills this void with its brutally honest personal story of a slaves life Northups account enlightens and strengthens Genoveses arguments specifically those concerning labor the master-slave relationship and rebellion by putting global descriptions in a personal perspective One of the main advantages of 12 Years a Slave is that Northup is a slave himself and in that respect does not have to be an apologist for slavery and slaveholders It is not that Genovese himself is an apologist but as a modern Caucasian he must approach the subject of casting any light that might be perceived as positive on slaveholders with trepidation Although Genovese does his best to present a fair and accurate depiction of slavery he cannot know the slaves perceptions of their masters It is really in this respect that Northups account is so useful By portraying slaveholders as people with human faults and sensibilities he shows how the institution affects everyone involved Slaveholders can still be good people and that goodness shines through the peculiar institution This is a vital piece of the story of slavery that Genovese cannot put in his comprehensive history Northups words must be left to stand alone and draw specifics against a general background
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