Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Event Recalls Kidnapping of Minerva Native Into Slavery

Solomon Northup in a Sketch from Twelve Years a SlaveThe 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs.

Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.

Northup was born a free man in what is today Minerva, Essex County, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom.

Citizens of Saratoga and surrounding areas were instrumental in arranging for Solomon’s release in 1853 and return to Saratoga. Northup published his autobiography Twelve Years A Slave in 1853 about his ordeal.

It is believed he traveled throughout the region selling his book and speaking out against slavery and was himself an abolitionist. Although Northup sought to bring his captors to trial, they were never prosecuted and he mysteriously disappeared. To date, his burial site has not been identified and it is not known whether or not he was killed, re-captured or died of natural causes.

More than forty descendants of Solomon Northup and his wife Ann Hampton Northup will attend to present poetry and information about their family heritage. Northup’s great, great, great granddaughter will play a violin solo in his honor.

Don Papson, founder of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association and the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm, NY will present new research on Northup’s life. A representative of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region will speak on American history and the times in which Northup lived. Tonya Hopkins, a culinary historian, will speak to the life of Ann Hampton Northup, who worked as a professional cook and caterer.

Northup’s book is being made into a full length feature film called 12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alfre Woodard, Chris Chalk, Taran Killam and Bill Camp which is scheduled for release in late 2013. There will be a special sneak preview of scenes from the film at this year’s Solomon Northup Day.

Local fiddlers Frank Orsini and Dan Hubbs will perform. Reception with food and beverages will be part of the event. Solomon Northup Day is free and open to the public.

Illustration: Solomon Northup in a Sketch from Twelve Years a Slave.

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3 Responses

  1. Ellen Rathbone says:

    When I was a child, I often would look thru the old books at my great-grandparents’ house. Fast-forward many years, and I inherited a lot of those books. A few years ago, while I was still living in Newcomb, I was reading through one of them, the illustrations familiar from my very young days, and was stunned that part of it took place in Minerva – just down the road from where I lived! Enter the internet, and I discovered that Saratoga was having the annual Solomon Northup Days and descendents of his family would be there. I packed up my first edition of “Twelve Years a Slave” and went to the event. Everything that goes around, comes around. It’s an amazing story and my ancestors purchased the book shortly after it was published…and it remains in the family. Local history – gotta love it.

    • John Warren says:

      What a great story Ellen!

      Thanks for sharing that. We miss you here at the Almanack.


  2. It is entirely possible that Ellen’s book was handled by Northup himself. I have a photocopy of an inscription the owner of an 1853 book made in his copy, indicating it had been purchased from Northup himself on a NY Central train. The owner apparently was fron Rossie. Look for my new book on Northup coming out next month. – David Fiske

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