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Dr. Sue Eakin

Listen: Slave Owner Epps vs. Liberal Bass
Dr. Sue Eakin Image

Originally published in 1853, Twelve Years a Slave was lost to history by the early twentieth century, when it could not be located by libraries, stores or catalogues ( see 1922 New Orleans Item news clipping). Then a 12-year-old avid reader in central Louisiana ‐ the future Dr. Sue Eakin ‐ reached upon the library shelf of a plantation home and discovered a dusty copy of the book that would determine her life's path.

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    Dr. Eakin went on to write her master's thesis about Solomon Northup's story, and after decades of research, produced the first authenticated edition of the book in 1968. In 2007, at the age of 88, she completed her final definitive edition with over 100 pages of fascinating new information, never-before-published images and unique maps related to the story.

    Along the way, Dr. Eakin authored over a dozen acclaimed history books and became an award-winning history professor, Hall of Fame journalist, local civil rights leader and internationally recognized authority on antebellum plantation life.

    After her passing at age 90 in 2009, her priceless archive was donated by her family to Louisiana State University at Alexandria. The Smithsonian Institute is creating a permanent exhibit featuring her Twelve Years a Slave research materials, and her family carries on her work with the publication of her final edition in book and audiobook formats.

  • The Discovery Audio Open or Close

    Audio clip of Dr. Eakin's description of the moment she discovered Solomon Northup's narrative when she was 12 years old. Voiced by Casey Kelly.

  • Career & Previous Work Open or Close

    Dr. Eakin's academic career spanned over two decades with intensive historical research supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Association of University Women, the LSU Foundation and others. She founded and directed the World Plantation Conferences featuring prominent scholars from around the world, served on the boards of many historical foundations, and delivered hundreds of speeches around the country regarding her research and unique perspectives. A popular classroom teacher, her travel courses in Louisiana, Southern and American history developed a large following, and she was recognized as Distinguished Faculty of the LSU System and national Outstanding American History Professor by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

    Dr. Eakin's journalism career as columnist, reporter and freelance writer-photographer for daily newspapers in New Orleans and Alexandria, LA, paralleled her academic career, and she was inducted into the Manship Journalism Hall of Fame in Louisiana.

    Her literary contributions are many and varied, and include:

    • Twelve Years a Slave, Enhanced Final Edition, Researcher-Editor, 2013
    • Twelve Years a Slave, LSU Press, co-edited by Dr. Sue Eakin and Dr. Joseph Logsdon, 1968
    • Northup – The Musical, Writer, 1983
    • Twelve Years a Slave: Young Learner’s Edition, Writer, 1999
    • William O'Neal: the Man Who Sold His Wife, Editor, 1989
    • Louisiana: the Land and Its People, written with Manie Culbertson, 1986
    • Vanishing Louisiana,written with Norman Ferachi, photography by Paul Eakin, 1980
    • Fabulous Inland Port: Washington, Louisiana, Writer, 1988
    • The First World Plantation Conference, co-edited with Dr. John Tarver, 1989
    • LeCompte: Old Plantation Town in Transition, Writer, 1982
    • Avoyelles Parish: Crossroads of Louisiana, Writer, 1981
    • Historic Cheneyville, Writer, 1977
    • Rapides Parish History, Writer, 1977
    • Prichard’s Outline of Louisiana History, Editor, 1970
    • In Defense of My Country, written with Morgan Peoples, 1985
    • God Wanted Eddie Jones to Win: A Black Woman's Quiet Revolution, Writer (unpublished)
  • The Civil Rights Leader – Video Open or Close

    Dr. Eakin, the daughter of a planter, describes the conflict that erupted in 1944 when she invited the all-black Southern University choir to sing in her small central Louisiana town. She sums up her philosophy in braving the pressures and threats from townspeople who disapproved of her civil rights activities.