The Story Of Solomon Northup
"Twelve Years A Slave" - The Story Of A Saratoga Man Who Was Sold Into Slavery For 12 Years
SARATOGA SPRINGS NY — The author of his autobiography (and later the subject of a motion picture starring Brad Pitt), Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup was born in Minerva in 1808 and later lived in Saratoga with his wife and family. He worked at various Saratoga hotels, including the Grand Union Hotel, as a performer and violinist.
As the story goes, Northup was walking the streets of Saratoga one day looking for work when two men approached him, offering him an opportunity to play his violin in NYC. He accepted, not knowing what he was bargaining for. He was kidnapped, held in a slave pen in Washington D.C. and then sold into slavery in Louisiana, where he would remain for 12 long years before being rescued.
The conversation between Northup and these two men is said to have happened on the corner of Broadway and Congress Street right here in Saratoga Springs on a winter day back in 1841!
Through a collaborative effort lead by a Canadian man and Northup's wife (garnering support from residents of Saratoga, neighboring communities and Louisiana), Northup's freedom was eventually won in court, and he returned home. Northup tried to bring his captors to trial, but they were never prosecuted. His book, Twelve Years a Slave is still in print and widely popular.
Did you know there is an historical sign commemorating Northup at the very place he was abducted? It's on Broadway at the side entrance of the Visitor Center and reads: SOLOMON NORTHUP: Born 1808 a free man, lured from Saratoga, kidnapped and sold into slavery, 1841; Rescued, 1853. Author, "Twelve Years A Slave". Look for it next time you drive by!
There is also a Solomon Northup Day here in Saratoga! Founded by Saratoga native Renee Moore in 1999, "Solomon Northup Day -- A Celebration of Freedom" is now celebrated annually every third Saturday in July (Northup's birth month) with a celebration at the Heritage Area Visitor Center.
The fate of Solomon Northup is unknown, but his legacy lives on as a reminder to this and future generations just how important it is to speak up and fight for freedom.