"12 Years a Slave," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-7

As you read Solomon Northup's "12 Years a Slave" (etext found here), learn these word lists for the autobiography: Chapters 1-7, Chapters 8-14, Chapters 15-22

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. emancipate
    free from slavery or servitude
    On the death of this gentleman, which must have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been emancipated by a direction in his will.
  2. imbue
    fill or soak totally
    He endeavored to imbue our minds with sentiments of morality, and to teach us to place our trust and confidence in Him who regards the humblest as well as the highest of his creatures.
  3. beguiling
    misleading by means of pleasant or alluring methods
    It has also been the source of consolation since, affording pleasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, from the painful contemplation of my fate.
  4. abject
    showing humiliation or submissiveness
    I was too ignorant, perhaps too independent, to conceive how any one could be content to live in the abject condition of a slave.
  5. legerdemain
    an illusory feat
    It consisted in throwing balls, dancing on the rope, frying pancakes in a hat, causing invisible pigs to squeal, and other like feats of ventriloquism and legerdemain.
  6. proficiency
    skillfulness in the command of fundamentals
    At any rate, they immediately entered into conversation on that subject, making numerous inquiries touching my proficiency in that respect.
  7. appellation
    identifying words by which someone or something is called
    Their names, as they afterwards gave them to me, were Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton, though whether these were their true appellations, I have strong reasons to doubt.
  8. expatiate
    add details, as to an account or idea
    Largely did they expatiate on the advantages that would result to me, and such were the flattering representations they made, that I finally concluded to accept the offer.
  9. solicitous
    full of anxiety and concern
    Their constant conversation and manner towards me—their foresight in suggesting the idea of free papers, and a hundred other little acts, unnecessary to be repeated— all indicated that they were friends indeed, sincerely solicitous for my welfare.
  10. commiserate
    feel or express sympathy or compassion
    Brown and Hamilton advised me to retire, commiserating me kindly, and expressing hopes that I would be better in the morning.
  11. unmitigated
    not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity
    But I would not be silent, and denounced the authors of my imprisonment, whoever they might be, as unmitigated villains.
  12. parlance
    a manner of speaking natural to a language's native speakers
    The paddle, as it is termed in slave-beating parlance, or at least the one with which I first became acquainted, and of which I now speak, was a piece of hard-wood board, eighteen or twenty inches long, moulded to the shape of an old-fashioned pudding stick, or ordinary oar.
  13. imprecation
    the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil
    I prayed for mercy, but my prayer was only answered with imprecations and with stripes.
  14. lacerate
    irregularly slashed and jagged as if torn
    Still he plied the lash without stint upon my poor body, until it seemed that the lacerated flesh was stripped from my bones at every stroke.
  15. remonstrate
    argue in protest or opposition
    He remonstrated with me against the propriety of asserting my freedom.
  16. patronizing
    characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
    In rather a patronizing and confidential manner, he gave it to me as his advice, that the less I said on that subject the better it would be for me.
  17. inalienable
    incapable of being repudiated or transferred to another
    So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington through the Capital of a nation, whose theory of government, we are told, rests on the foundation of man's inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness!
  18. mulatto
    an offspring of a black and a white parent
    A mulatto woman who served at table seemed to take an interest in our behalf—told us to cheer up, and not to be so cast down.
  19. chattel
    personal as opposed to real property
    These houses are usually found within slave yards, being used as rooms for the examination of human chattels by purchasers before concluding a bargain.
  20. disheveled
    in disarray; extremely disorderly
    She was not as tidy as when I first beheld her; her hair was now somewhat disheveled; but through its unkempt and soft profusion there still beamed a little face of most surpassing loveliness.
  21. demure
    shy or modest, often in a playful or provocative way
    Jim and Cuffee were very demure and attentive to business, somewhat inflated with their situation as second cooks, and without doubt feeling that there was a great responsibility resting on them.
  22. loathsome
    highly offensive; arousing aversion or disgust
    The sea-sickness rendered the place of our confinement loathsome and disgusting.
  23. unrequited
    not returned in kind
    The thought of Randall and little Emmy sinking down among the monsters of the deep, is a more pleasant contemplation than to think of them as they are now, perhaps, dragging out lives of unrequited toil.
  24. disconsolate
    sad beyond comforting; incapable of being consoled
    The death of Robert, however, and the presence of the malady, oppressed me sadly, and I gazed out over the great waste of waters with a spirit that was indeed disconsolate.
  25. levee
    an embankment built to prevent a river from overflowing
    On coming to the levee, and before the vessel was made fast, I saw Manning leap on shore and hurry away into the city.
  26. protracted
    relatively long in duration
    Were the events of the last few weeks realities indeed?—or was I passing only through the dismal phases of a long, protracted dream?
  27. loquacious
    full of trivial conversation
    The latter gentleman was very loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several good points and qualities.
  28. paroxysm
    a sudden uncontrollable attack
    The man answered that he could not afford it, and then Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, weeping plaintively.
  29. appall
    fill with apprehension or alarm
    Though there was little in the prospect before me worth living for, the near approach of death appalled me.
  30. abiding
    In that event I felt an abiding confidence that I would soon regain my liberty.
  31. repulsive
    offensive to the mind
    There was nothing repulsive in his presence; but on the other hand, there was something cheerful and attractive in his face, and in his tone of voice.
  32. depreciate
    lower the value of something
    Whether the small-pox had depreciated our value, or from what cause Freeman had concluded to fall five hundred dollars from the price I was before held at, I cannot say.
  33. minion
    a servile or fawning dependant
    On leaving the New-Orleans slave pen, Harry and I followed our new master through the streets, while Eliza, crying and turning back, was forced along by Freeman and his minions, until we found ourselves on board the steamboat Rodolph, then lying at the levee.
  34. servitude
    state of subjection to an owner or master
    In many northern minds, perhaps, the idea of a man holding his brother man in servitude, and the traffic in human flesh, may seem altogether incompatible with their conceptions of a moral or religious life.
  35. execrate
    curse or declare to be evil or anathema
    From descriptions of such men as Burch and Freeman, and others hereinafter mentioned, they are led to despise and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, indiscriminately.
  36. superlative
    the highest level or degree attainable
    Sam knew Burch, and when informed that he was the trader who had sent me on from Washington, it was remarkable how well we agreed upon the subject of his superlative rascality.
  37. inculcate
    teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions
    He sought to inculcate in our minds feelings of kindness towards each other, of dependence upon God—setting forth the rewards promised unto those who lead an upright and prayerful life.
  38. navigable
    able to be sailed on or through safely
    Provided the creek could be made navigable for rafts, it occurred to me that the expense of transportation would be materially diminished.
  39. guttural
    relating to or articulated in the throat
    At the first note, if indeed there was more than one note in the whole tune, they circled around, trotting after each other, and giving utterance to a guttural, sing-song noise, equally as nondescript as the music of the fiddle.
  40. benign
    pleasant and beneficial in nature or influence
    He pointed upwards, and with benign and cheering words addressed us as his fellow-mortals, accountable, like himself, to the Maker of us all.

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