The life of Solomon Northup—the free, black, middle-class, violin-playing New Yorker who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841—lives on in his memoir, 12 Years a Slave, one of the most vivid accounts of human bondage in American history. He is passed from one plantation to the next as property. He is whipped after underperforming in the cotton fields. And he is forced to lash the plantation owner’s slave-mistress nearly to death under the psychotic gaze of Master Epps. But with the film-adaptation by director Steve McQueen, Northrup’s legacy has inherited a new memorial vessel: Chiwetel Ejiofor.