Autobiography/Memoir

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Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup

1853

Twelve Years a Slave is an 1853 memoir and slave narrative by American Solomon Northup as told to and written by David Wilson. Solomon Northup was a free Black resident of New York State who was drugged on a trip to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1841 and sold to a dealer of enslaved people. Beaten and chained, he was transported by ship to a New Orleans market and suffered more than a decade of servitude on Louisiana plantations.

Northup had to hide his literacy or risk violence. And he was unable, for years, to get word to anyone in the North to let them know where he was. Fortunately, he was eventually able to send messages which prompted legal action that secured his freedom.