Solomon Northup< Back to author list
Northup sued the slave traders in Washington, DC, but lost in the local court. District of Columbia law prohibited him as a black man from testifying against whites and, without his testimony, the men went free. Returning to his family in New York, Northup became active in abolitionism. He published an account of his experiences in Twelve Years a Slave (1853) in his first year of freedom. Northup gave dozens of lectures throughout the Northeast on his experiences as a slave, in order to support the abolitionist cause.
In the early 1860s, Northup, along with another black man, aided a Methodist minister in Vermont in helping fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. The circumstances of Northup's death are uncertain.
Solomon Northup's memoir was reprinted several times later in the 19th century. An annotated version was published in 1968, edited by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon. The memoir was adapted and produced as a film in 2013 by Steve McQueen, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup. Previously, a TV movie had been made of Northup's story, Solomon Northup's Odyssey (1984), directed by Gordon Parks. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove wrote her poem "The Abduction" about Solomon Northup (published in her first collection, "The Yellow House on the Corner", 1980.)
Since 1999, Saratoga Springs, New York, has celebrated an annual Solomon Northup Day.