On this day: Solomon Northup became a free man again

On the 4th of January, 1853, Solomon Northup regained his freedom.

He was born free in New York near the start of the nineteenth century (1807 or 1808), to a mother who was three-quarters European and a father was had been freed from slavery.

In 1841, in his early thirties, Northup was drugged and sold into slavery in Louisiana, leaving behind his wife and children.

Sketch of Solomon Northup 1855

A sketch from 1855

Northup was first owned by an English preacher, who he remembered as kind and considerate of his slaves. However, the man ran into financial difficulties and had to sell Northup on. His second owner was an infamously cruel man, who at one point tried to kill him.

He was sold on again, to a man with whom he stayed for around ten years, and who frequently mistreated his slaves.

New York Times coverage of Solomon Northup's case. 19th century.

Read the New York Times article about the case.

It was twelve years before a chance meeting with a Canadian carpenter with abolitionist views meant Northup could get word back home about what had happened to him.

12 Years a Slave title page.

Northup’s story was told in the book Twelve Years a Slave, which was recently made into an Oscar-winning movie.


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