Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853

Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853

Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853

Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853

Synopsis

After living as a free man for the first thirty-three years of his life, Solomon Northup was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery, leaving behind a wife and three children in New York. Sold to a Louisiana plantation owner who was also a Baptist preacher, Northup proceeded to serve several masters, some who were brutally cruel and others whose humanity he praised. After years of bondage, he met an outspoken abolitionist from Canada who notified Northup's family of his whereabouts, and he was subsequently rescued by an official agent of the state of New York. Twelve Years a Slave is his account of this unusual series of events. Northup describes life on cotton and sugar cane plantations in meticulous detail. One slave narrative scholar calls his narrative "one of the most detailed and realistic portraits of slave life." He also leavens his account with wry humor and cultural commentary, making many parts of the narrative read more like travel writing than abolitionist literature. Twelve Years a Slave presents the remarkable story of a free man thrown into a hostile and foreign world, who survived by his courage and cunning.

A DOCSOUTH BOOK. This collaboration between UNC Press and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library brings selected classic works from the digital library of Documenting the American South back into print. DocSouth Books uses the latest digital technologies to make these works available as downloadable e-books or print-on-demand publications. DocSouth Books are unaltered from the original publication, providing affordable and easily accessible editions to a new generation of scholars, students, and general readers.

Excerpt

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 [Page xvi] 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.

DAVID WILSON.

WHITEHALL, N. Y., May, 1853.

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