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Solomon Northup


Solomon Northup was born a free man in Saratogo Springs, New York in 1808. His father, Mintus, had been a slave in his early life in service to the Northup family. When Mintus’ master, Captain Henry Northup freed him in 1797, Mintus took the surname Northup as his own. Mintus was successful as a free man, meeting New York State’s property requirements for black male voters, and was one of the few African-American’s eligible to vote. Also, his children received a level of education that was considered high for blacks at that time.

On Christmas Day of 1829, Solomon married Anne Hampton. Solomon held many jobs to provide for his wife and three children. He owned a farm, played the violin in upscale hotels, and worked as a carpenter. In 1841, Solomon met two men who offered him emp-loyment as a fiddler for several performances in New York City. Solomon was then persuaded to travel to Washington d.c., where slavery was legal. When they arrived, Solomon was drugged, beaten, and placed on a ship to New Orleans where he was sold to William Ford. Solomon worked for two other owners, before he was sold to Edwin Epps. Here, Solomon toiled for ten years on a cotton plantation under the cruelty of Epps’ whip.

In 1852, a Canadian carpenter named Samuel Bass came to work for Epps. When Solomon overheard Bass talking about his abolitionist views, Solomon confided his story to him. Under great personal risk, Bass wrote letters to Solomon’s friends. In cooperation with the Governor of New York, and the Senator of Louisiana, Captain Henry Northup’s son secured Solomon’s freedom from Epps.

On January 4, 1853, Solomon returned home to his family. His attempt at bringing his abductors to trial did not succeed, as Solomon was prohibited from testifying against white men in a Washington court of law. He spent the remaining years of his life giving lectures on slavery throughout the northeastern United States. To this day, there is no public record of how and when Solomon Nothup died.