Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup (born July 1808, died c. 1863) was a free-born African American from New York state noted for having been kidnapped while on business in Washington DC in 1841, and sold into slavery in the Deep South. In January 1853 he regained his freedom, one of very few to do so in such cases. Held in the Red River (Mississippi River) region of Louisiana for 12 years by different owners, he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the New York governor in his cause. New York state had passed a law in 1840 to recover African Americans who had been kidnapped under such conditions. Northup sued the slave traders in Washington DC but lost in the local court, as District of Columbia law prohibited him, as a black man, from testifying against whites. Returning to his family in New York, Northup became active in abolitionism. He published an account of his experiences in Twelve Years a Slave (1853) in his first year of freedom. Northup lectured widely throughout the Northeast on his experiences as a slave, in order to support the abolitionist cause. John R. Smith, the son of a Methodist minister named John L.


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