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.