12 Years a Slave opened in the UK on Friday 10th January with media coverage in print, radio and screen. Both director Steve McQueen and lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor were quoted as saying that Solomon Northup's autobiography (first published in New York in 1853) should be on the National Curriculum for British school-children.
Sky News: Should Slavery Be Made Essential Reading?
Follett has also produced short films on Twelve Years a Slave and other Narratives of Slavery for Teachinghistory.org, a high-traffic site for U.S. high-school teachers, 5,000 of whom have downloaded Follett's videos on how to teach American slavery.
Solomon Northup was an exceptional man, not just in his life history, but also in his literacy. A recent review by Follett on slavery and the power of literacy is available in Times Higher Education.
His research has also contributed to the cultural heritage of slavery and is used to promote public education and tourism in Louisiana, His book, the award-winning Sugar Masters bridges the divide between scholarship and public knowledge and is sold widely at plantation homes and tourist sites across the state.
On various plantation tours, it is employed by guides and serves as "a perfect complement to the tour and interpretive programming." It has even be used to provide historical context for visitors planning motorhome tours of the state.
"I could not have written my novel, The Cutting Season, without books like Richard Follett's astoundingly well-researched, Sugar Masters. For me, writing believable fiction that can emotionally reach readers and also teach them about different eras in our shared history requires reading texts like these."