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Solomon Northup
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Slave
    (July 7, 1807-1863)
    Born in Minerva (Essex County), New York
    Abolitionist, author, farmer, and journalist
    Son of a freed slave and free woman of color
    Drugged, kidnapped, and sold into a slavery after traveling to Washington, D.C. to discuss a traveling violinist job
    Given the name, 'Platt,' by the slave traders (which he retained throughout his captivity)
    Shipped to New Orleans, where he was purchased by a planter
    Was held in slavery for in the Red River region of Louisiana, for twelve years
    Succeeded in sending word to government offices in the state of New York, through a Canadian carpenter working on his plantation
    Family and friends enlisted the aid of New York Governor Washington Hunt, who used his influence to help Northup regain his freedom (January 3, 1853)
    Wrote and published his memoir, 'Twelve Years a Slave,' during his first year of freedom (1853)
    Gave more than two dozen speeches throughout the Northeast about his experiences, lecturing on behalf of the abolitionist movement in the antebellum period
    Autobiographical memoir was adapted and produced for a PBS TV movie, 'Solomon Northup's Odyssey' (1984)
    Library of Congress accepted the program of Solomon Northup Day into their permanent archives of the American Folklife Center (2000)
    Portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the Oscar-winning adaptation of his memoir, '12 Years a Slave,' directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Brad Pitt (2013)
    No known photographic likeness of him exists.
    He found no reason to inform his family about his leaving on a days-long business trip to New York, and then Washington (unintentionally compounding his problems upon his kidnapping).
    He whipped a slave girl named Patsey, when his master ordered him to (all over her sneaking off to a neighboring plantation for a bar of soap).
    He is confused with escaped - later extradited (and then freed) - slave Anthony Burns.
    He is widely associated with the Fugitive Slave Law and the danger it posed to all black Americans, but he was kidnapped/sold into slavery nine years before the law's passage.
    The authorship of his 'Twelve Years' memoir has been disputed.
    While this is a typical charge leveled at slave narratives, he did admit to using a ghostwriter (one who has since been accused of pursuing his own agenda).
    He was overshadowed by better known black abolitionists/ex-slaves like Fredrick Douglas until he became the subject of a popular Brad Pitt period movie in 2013; at which point interest in his memoir revived practically overnight.
    He virtually disappears from public record after 1863. While it remains unclear as to what happened to him, an obituary for his wife Anne wrote that Solomon 'after exhibiting himself through the country became a worthless vagabond.'
    He was a skilled carpenter who had been proficient in the violin since his teen years.
    At 32, he was drugged, kidnapped and sold for $650, as a fugitive slave, by his ‘business partners.’
    He was severely beaten by his jailers when he consistently tried to argue that he was a free man.
    His description of the ‘Yellow House’ slave pen, in view of the Capitol, has helped researchers document the history of slavery in Washington DC.
    His second owner whipped him over the quality of nails he was using in a construction project.
    When he fought back and beat the hell out of him, he narrowly escaped being lynched in retaliation (saved only by his previous master and his overseer).
    He survived a murder attempt by the same owner, this time strangling him to the point of unconsciousness (he went into hiding for four days to avoid punishment).
    When he was ordered to beat Patsey more severely, he refused to do so (even under threat of being brutally whipped himself).
    He sued the men involved in selling him into slavery in the District of Columbia, but racist laws of the time prevented him from testifying against them. They walked away unpunished.
    While it is unclear what became of him, primary sources indicate he was involved in the Underground Railroad helping escaped slaves.
    Pulitzer Prize-winner and U.S. Poet Laureate, Rita Dove, devoted a poem to him in her first collection, ‘The Abduction’ (1980)
    Composer and saxophonist T. K. Blue was commissioned by the New York State Council on the Arts to record 'Follow the North Star,' a musical composition based on his life (2008).
    Chiwetel Ejiofor lost Best Actor to the Dazed and Confused/Surfer, Dude stoner guy playing a terminally ill homophobic cowboy (screw #OscarsSoWhite - he shoulda won!)

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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