With its looming, gloomy high stone walls, crumbling corridors, and stark cells that once housed thousands of hard-core criminals, Eastern State Penitentiary certainly looks haunted. Its 142-year history is full of suicide, madness, disease, murder and torture, making it easy to imagine the spirits of troubled souls left behind to roam its abandoned halls.
"We love being the country that freed the slaves," says historian David Blight. But "we're not so fond of being the country that had the biggest slave system on the planet." That's why Blight was glad to see the new film 12 Years a Slave, an adaptation of an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. Northup was a free black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841 and won his freedom 12 years later. "We need to keep telling this story because it, in part, made us who we were," Blight tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
The new movie 12 Years a Slave has been receiving high praise — critic David Denby recently described it in The New Yorker as "easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery." The film is adapted from the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, who had been a free black man in upstate New York. A husband and father, he was a literate, working man, who also made money as a fiddler. But in 1841, after being lured to Washington, D.C., with the promise of several days' work fiddling with the circus, he was kidnapped into slavery.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are going to talk a bit today about people on the move. Around the world and throughout time, people have moved from one place to another in search of better lives. But how they're doing it and how much they're doing it are changing. Coming up, we'll look at how thousands of Central Americans are trying to pass through Mexico to the U.S. border every year by clinging to the tops of rusty cargo trains.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, it's no secret that it's getting harder to move on up in this country, to achieve upward mobility that is. Last week, we asked whether the ability of Americans to literally move to different parts of the country is playing a role in this. We heard from so many listeners about this that we decided to dig into the story a bit more, and we'll have that in just a few minutes.
The struggle of infertility can bring tensions to any marriage. The new film, Mother of George, shines a light on how that experience affects a newlywed Nigerian couple living in New York. Host Michel Martin speaks with director Andrew Dosunmu and actress Danai Gurira about the film.