Solomon Northup is deceived, kidnapped, abused, removed from family, deprived of identity, and beaten into a long, weary, unjustified submission. Yet he is never broken. 12 Years a Slave is a testament to the supremacy of the human spirit and the persistent resilience of hope. Even in his worst days of sorrow, he endured the brutalities of Edwin Epps, he never gives in to disappear, and he always knew deep in his heart that one day he will be free. He never loses faith in his friends, constantly assured that if he can only get word to the North then they will indeed come to his rescue. And they do. In the end, Solomon Northup’s tear-jerking journey uplifts because in his testimony is evidence that faith and hope can withstand—and triumph.
Solomon Northup was born in Minerva, New York in 1807 or 1808. He largely disappeared from the historical record after 1857, although a letter later reported him alive in early 1863; some observers thought he had been kidnapped again, but historians believe it unlikely, as he would have been considered too old to bring a good price. The details of his death have never been documented. He was a free-born African American born to a freed slave and a free woman of color. He was an American abolitionist and the primary author of the memoir Twelve Years a Slave. In 1828 or 1829 he married Anne Hampton, who had of African, European, and Native American ancestry. Between 1830 and 1834, the couple lived in Fort Edward and Kingsbury, Washington County, New York. They had three children: Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. In 1841, he was offered a traveling musician's job and went to Washington, D.C. (where slavery was legal); there he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold as a slave. Then shipped to New Orleans, purchased by a planter, and held as a slave for 12 years in the Red River region of Louisiana, mostly in Avoyelles Parish. He remained a slave until he met a Canadian working on his plantation who helped get word to New York, where state law provided aid to free New York citizens who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. Those who had kidnapped and enslaved Northup received no punishment. In 2000, the Library of Congress accepted the program of Solomon Northup Day into the permanent archives of the American Folklife Center. "Solomon Northup Day – a Celebration of Freedom" continues annually in the City of Saratoga Springs, as well as in Plattsburgh, New York, with the support of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association.