February 18, 2020

Twelve Years a Slave

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British writer of crime and detective fiction, Dame Agatha Christie (1891 - 1976).   (Photo by Walter Bird/Getty Images)

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Twelve Years a Slave, sub-title: Narrative of Solomon Northup, citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana, is a memoir by Solomon Northup as told to and edited by David Wilson. It is a slave narrative of a black man who was born free in New York state but kidnapped in Washington, D.C., sold into slavery, and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana. He provided details of slave markets in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, as well as describing at length cotton and sugar cultivation on major plantations in Louisiana.

Solomon Northup was a free-born African American from New York, the son of a freed slave. A farmer and violinist, he owned a property in Hebron. In 1841 he was kidnapped by slave-traders, having been enticed with a job offer as a violinist. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington, DC, they drugged him and sold him as a slave. He was shipped to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner in Louisiana. He was held in the Red River region of Louisiana by several different owners for 12 years, during which time his friends and family had no word of him. He made repeated attempts to escape and get messages out of the plantation. Eventually he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the Governor of New York, Washington Hunt, to his cause. He regained his freedom in January 1853 and returned to his family in New York.