Solomon Northup (July 1808―after 1857) was a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs , New York . He is noted for having been kidnapped in 1841 when enticed with a job offer. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington D.C., they drugged him and sold him into slavery. From Washington D.C., he was transported to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner from Rapides Parish, Louisiana. After 12 years in bondage, he regained his freedom in January 1853; he was one of very few to do so in such cases. Held in the Red River region of Louisiana by several different owners, he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the Governor of New York in his cause. New York state had passed a law in 1840 to recover African-American residents who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.
The circumstances of Northup's death are uncertain and no contemporary record of him exists from after 1857.
When the editor commenced the preparation of the following narrative, he did not suppose it would reach the size of this volume. In order, however, to present all the facts which have been communicated to him, it has seemed necessary to extend it to its present length.
Many of the statements contained in the following pages are corroborated by abundant evidence—others rest entirely upon Solomon’s assertion. That he has adhered strictly to the truth the editor, at least, who has had an opportunity of detecting any contradiction or discrepancy in his statements, is well satisfied. He has invariably repeated the same story without deviating in the slightest particular, and has also carefully perused the manuscript, dictating an alteration wherever the most trivial inaccuracy has appealed.
It was Solomon’s fortune, during his captivity, to be owned by several masters. The treatment he received while at the “Pine Woods” shows that among slaveholders there are men of humanity as well of cruelty. Some of them are spoken of with emotions of gratitude—others in a spirit of bitterness. It is believed that the following account of his experience on Bayou Boeuf presents a correct picture of Slavery in all its lights, and shadows, as it now exists in that locality. Unbiased, as he conceives, by any prepossessions or prejudices, the only object of the editor has been to give a faithful history of Solomon Northup’s life, as he received it from his lips.
In the accomplishment of that object, he trusts he has succeeded, notwithstanding the numerous faults of style and of expression it may be found to contain.
WHITEHALL, N. Y., May, 1853.
suffering, as it proved in the end. Epps, I soon found,whether actually in the field or not, had his eyes pretty generally upon us. From the piazza, from behind some adjacent tree, or other concealed point of observation,he was perpetually on the watch. If one of us had been backward or idle through the day, we were apt to be told all about it on returning to the quarters, and as it was a matter of principle with him to reprove every offence of that kind that came within his knowledge, the offender not only was certain of receiving a castigation for his tardiness, but I likewise was punished for permitting it.
If, on the other hand, he had seen me use the lash freely, the man was satisfied. "Practice makes perfect,"truly; and during my eight years' experience as a driver, I learned to handle the whip with marvelous dexterity and precision, throwing the lash within a hair's breadth of the back, the ear, the nose, without, however, touching either of them. If Epps was observed at a distance, or we had reason to apprehend he was sneaking somewhere in the vicinity, I would commence plying the lash vigorously,when, according to arrangement, they would squirm and screech as if in agony, although not one of them had in fact been even grazed. Patsey would take occasion, if he made his appearance presently, to mumble in his hearing some complaints that Platt was lashing them the whole time, and Uncle Abram, with an appearance of honesty peculiar to himself.