Twelve Years a Slave is a memoir and slave narrative by Solomon Northup, as told to and edited by David Wilson. Northup, a black man who was born free in New York, details his kidnapping in Washington, D.C. and subsequent sale into slavery. After having been kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana by various masters, Northup was able to write to friends and family in New York, who were able to secure his release. Northups account provides extensive details on the slave markets in Washingtonumble background. Mintus died in 1829.
Solomons mother - unnamed in the book - was a woman of mixed ancestry. There are only sketchy details about her in Solomons memoir, but it is mentioned that she died while Solomon was held as a slave in the Deep South. Solomon described his mother as a quadroon, meaning she was one quarter black and three-quarters white.
In 1829, Solomon married Anne Hampton, a woman of African, European and Native American heritage, and together they had three children: Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo. Solomon Northup worked as a raftsman, carpenter, construction worker and a fiddler, and he and his family initially owned a farm in Hebron, Washington County, before moving to Saratoga Springs, New York to take advantage of better employment prospects. Whilst Solomon worked, mainly as a musician, Anne was employed intermittently as a cook for local taverns and for the United States Hotel.
In 1841, aged 32, Solomon Northup met with two men who called themselves Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton. After gaining his trust, they drugged him and sold him to slave trader, James Birch, and claimed that Solomon was a fugitive slave. Solomon was then taken to Louisiana, where he remained in slavery for twelve years. It is these twelve years of slavery that are reflected on in this compelling memoir.