African-American history and culture
12 Years a Slave - Solomon Northup.
Solomon Northup was born a free man in Minerva, New York, in 1808. His father, Mintus, was originally enslaved to the Northup family from Rhode Island, but he was freed after the family moved to New York. As a young man, Northup helped his father with farming chores and worked as a raftsman on the waterways of upstate New York. He married Anne Hampton and they had three children together. During the 1830s, Northup became locally renowned as an excellent fiddle-player. In 1841, two men offered Northup generous wages to join a traveling musical show, but soon after he accepted, they drugged him and sold him into slavery. After years of bondage, he came into contact with an outspoken abolitionist from Canada, who sent letters to notify Northup's family of his whereabouts. An official state agent was sent to Louisiana to reclaim Northup. After he was freed, Northup filed kidnapping charges against the men who had defrauded him, but the lengthy trial that followed was ultimately dropped because of legal technicalities, and he received no remuneration. Little is known about Northup's life after the trial, but he is believed to have died in 1863.
Twelve Years a Slave was recorded by David Wilson, a white lawyer and legislator from New York who claimed to have presented "a faithful history of Solomon Northup's life. Northup's book was published in 1853, less than a year after his liberation. It sold over thirty thousand copies. It is therefore not only one of the longest North American slave narratives, but also one of the best-selling (paperback, new)