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Twelve Years a Slave (Northup) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—July 1808
Where—Minerva, New York, USA
Death—1863?
Where—unknown


Solomon Northup was a free-born African American from New York, the son of a freed slave. A farmer and violinist, he owned a property in Hebron. In 1841 he was kidnapped by slave-traders, having been enticed with a job offer as a violinist. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington, DC, they drugged him and sold him as a slave.

He was shipped to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner in Louisiana. He was held in the Red River region of Louisiana by several different owners for 12 years, during which time his friends and family had no word of him. He made repeated attempts to escape and get messages out of the plantation. Eventually he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the Governor of New York, Washington Hunt, to his cause. He regained his freedom in January 1853 and returned to his family in New York.

Northup sued the slave traders in Washington, DC, but lost in the local court. District of Columbia law prohibited him as a black man from testifying against whites and, without his testimony, he was unable to sue for civil damages. Later, in New York State, two men were charged with kidnapping but two years later the charges were dropped.

In his first year of freedom Northup published an account of his experiences in the memoir Twelve Years a Slave (1853). Northup also gave dozens of lectures throughout the Northeast about his experiences in order to support the abolitionist cause. The details of his death are uncertain.

Northup's memoir was adapted and produced as a 2013 film directed and produced by Steve McQueen, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/25/2014.)




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