Solomon Northup




Solomon Northup (1808-1857?) was an American farmer, carpenter and canal worker from New York state. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 – not an uncommon thing for free blacks in those days. After 12 years a slave in Louisiana he was freed and wrote “Twelve Years a Slave” (1853). He became an abolitionist – but then suddenly disappeared in 1857, never to be heard from again.


The book has been made into a film twice:

  • “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey” (1984), directed by Gordon Parks for PBS. Stars Avery Brooks.
  • “Twelve Years a Slave” (2013), directed by black British director Steve McQueen, written with John Ridley. Stars Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Note: The photos come from the 2013 film, but the post is based on the book.

Unlike “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which came out the year before, his book seems to be a matter-of-fact account of slavery. Even historians use…

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