In 1808, Solomon Northup was a free-born African American in New York City, son of a freed slave and a free African American woman. He was a man of many talents, a farmer, a skilled carpenter, a raftsman, and a violinist. He was married, had a wife and three children and enjoyed a pleasant life. In his capacity of violinist, he was offered a traveling musician’s job and to accept the position, he journeyed to Washington, D.C. During those years Washington was a place where slavery was legal.
Kidnapped and Sold
At 33 years old, in Washington, Northup was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was shipped to New Orleans and bought by a planter, and then sold to others, who worked him as slave labor for 12 years. His wife and family. probably thinking him dead, knew nothing of his whereabouts for those years. The backbreaking and soul shredding toil he experienced is well documented in his own story.
Free At Last!
Northup met a Canadian man on the plantation who helped get word to New York, where the state provided aid to free citizens kidnapped into slavery. With the help of family, friends, and the Governor of New York, Washington Hunt, he was finally freed on January 3, 1853. As you might have guessed by now, Solomon Northup was the author of the Best Seller “12 Years A Slave.” His story went on to become an Academy Award winning movie. But there’s much more to his story.
Slavery And The Law
The slave trader, James H. Birch, was arrested and sent to trial, but acquitted, because as a black man, Northup could not testify against a white man in Washington, D.C. His kidnappers were located and charged in New York but the case was tied up in court for two years due to jurisdictional challenges as to which state had the right to prosecute. After it was determined that Washington had that right, the case was never pursued. Those who kidnapped and enslaved Northup never received punishment.
Instant Video of the Movie “12 Years A Slave”
“12 Years A Slave”
In 1853, Northup wrote the story “12 Years A Slave,” as told to David Wilson, who acted as editor for the manuscript. He went on a lecture tour, to help build the growing abolitionist movement, giving more than two dozen speeches. By 1855 he lived with his daughter and her family in New York and worked as a carpenter.
The Disappearance of Solomon Northup
In 1857 he was doing a series of lectures in Canada and it was the last time he was seen in public. He was reported to be in Streetsville, Ontario and abruptly disappeared, never to be seen again.
Years of speculation have brought no solutions to this mystery. There are those who say Northup was again kidnapped, and taken back to the south. There are those who say he was murdered, possibly in retaliation for managing to cost his last owner his investment money. Yet again, there are rumors that he died of natural causes while on tour. But if that last part was true, why would not the whereabouts of his body be known? The fact remains that there’s a Mystery in the History of Solomon Northup. What do you think happened to the man who wrote “12 Years A Slave?”
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