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12 Years a Slave Movie Quotes

Updated November 6, 2017 110 votes 70 voters 19.1k views9 items

"12 Years a Slave" movie quotes tell the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in the 1800s who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The historical drama film was based on Northup's autobiography of the same name, which was converted into a screenplay by John Ridley. "12 Years a Slave" was directed by Steve McQueen and received critical acclaim when it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013.

In "12 Years a Slave," Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a talented violinist and carpenter living in New York with his wife and family. Two men lure him into traveling to Washington, DC, on a touring gig where he is drugged and sold into slavery. Despite knowing that he is in fact a free man, Solomon ends up in New Orleans living a life as a slave named Platt.

Solomon begins working for William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and even is allowed to revisit his musical abilities but soon a confrontation with carpenter John Tibeats (Paul Dano) leads to his sale to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), an abusive master who operates a cotton plantation. Solomon survives at the Epps plantation, much from the help of other slaves like Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), but longs to return to his life as a free man. After 12 years, Solomon meets Canadian abolitionist Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) and both of their lives change forever as a result.

"12 Years a Slave" is widely expected to be in the running come awards season but will have competition from other movies showing at the same time such as "Frozen," "Oldboy," "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Delivery Man," "Nebraska," "Sunlight Jr.," "Last Vegas," "Ender's Game, "The Counselor," "Bad Grandpa," "Escape Plan," "The Fifth Estate," "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "Machete Kills," "Runner Runner," "Don Jon," "Rush, "Prisoners,", "Enough Said," "The Family," and "Riddick,".
  • 5

    Master Brought You Here to Work

    Video: YouTube

    Mary Epps: "This is a list of goods and sundries. You will take it to be filled and return immediately. Take your tag. Take it to Bartholomew to add it to our debt."
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "Yes, mistress"
    Mary Epps: "Where you from Platt?"
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "I told you."
    Mary Epps: "Tell me again."
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "Washington"
    Mary Epps: "Who were your master?"
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "Master name a Freeman."
    Mary Epps: "Was he a learned man?"
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "I suppose so."
    Mary Epps: "He learn you to read?"
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "A word here or there but I have no understanding of the written text"
    Mary Epps: "Don't trouble yourself with it. Same as the rest, master brought you here to work. That's all. Anymore will earn you 100 lashes."

    Mary Epps suspects that Solomon is different and asks him questions to learn more about him. While she does give him advice on how to stay in line, it's not to keep him safe, more to keep him under her family's control.
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  • 6

    I Will Survive

    Solomon Northup/Platt: "I will survive! I will not fall into despair. I will keep myself hearty until freedom opportune."

    Solomon vows to keep up his fight to go back to the life he once had. He's been a slave for a long time with no end in sight but his determination remains.
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  • 7

    I Will Be Clean

    Video: YouTube

    Patsey: "I went to Master Shaw's plantation."
    Edwin Epps: "Ah, you admit it?"
    Patsey: "Yes, really, and you know why? I got this from Mistress Shaw. Mistress Epps won't even grant me no soap to clean with. I stink so much I make myself gag. 500 pounds of cotton, day in, day out, more than any many here, and for that I will be clean. That's all I ask. This here what I went to Shaw's for."

    Patsey, the hardest worker on the cotton plantation, explains why she snuck off to get soap from a neighbor. She tells Master Epps how hard she works and how poorly he treats her in return, remarking that for all she does, she deserves something as simple as her cleanliness.
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  • 8

    You're No Free Man

    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    Edwin Epps: "Well, boy, how you feel now?"
    Solomon Northup/Platt: "My name is Solomon Northup. I'm a free man and you have no right whatsoever to detain me."
    Edwin Epps: "You're no free man. You ain't nothing but a Georgia runaway."

    Solomon knows that he is free and those holding him against his will are breaking the law but he has little control to convince others of that fact, especially his strict master Edwin Epps.
    Should this be higher or lower?