Solomon Northup - Twelve Years a Slave

Kidnapping was a lucrative crime in antebellum America...

"Fiske's efforts to document these victims and the crimes that robbed them of their families and freedom are heroic indeed and should be applauded." – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

  Solomon Northup    

Book cover, Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave  

This recent book, Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of
Twelve Years a Slave
, is a full biography of Solomon Northup. It is not just
a rehashed or annotated edition of Northup's autobiography (which is the case
for the other available books about Northup). It includes much information
about Northup's early life in New York State, what he did after his release
from slavery, and his family members.

"The best current biography (and the indispensible source to me in writing this column) is
Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of 12 Years a Slave, by David
A. Fiske, Clifford W. Brown Jr. and Rachel Seligman."
- Excerpted from Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s article, '12 Years a Slave': Trek From Slave to Screen

Read Praeger Publishing's description of the book

 Order it from the publisher 

Read endorsements by advance reviewers (After page opens, scroll
down to "What People Are Saying," and click "Read More.")

 Move pointer here to see Table of Contents 

Author David Fiske talked about the book on the radio program, The John Batchelor Show.
Listen here (segment begins 19 minutes into the recording). (Fiske is available as a speaker.)

Available from:  Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Books a Million    Amazon UK    Walmart
(and many other fine online retailers--check with your favorites for availability)
   Kindle version   Nook version
Please mark it as "Want to Read" on goodreads.

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Keep up with Northup-related developments by joining the Solomon Northup Mailing List.
or by Liking the Facebook page (facebook.com/solnorthup) Facebook page for Solomon Northup / Twelve Years a Slave

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Other Kidnappings

Northup's experience of being kidnapped and sold into slavery was by no means an isolated incident. Carol Wilson's book from the 1990s, Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865, addresses the matter. Kidnappings of free blacks added to the friction between the free states and the slave states, prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. My recent book, Solomon Northup's Kindred: The Kidnapping of Free Citizens before the Civil War, explains the factors behind such crimes, and tells the stories of several dozen victims.

The book is available from:
Amazon    Barnes & Noble, as well as other online retailers.

It is also available as an e-book:
Kindle book,   Nook book, and   Google Play

Printable flyer

Listen to me talk about the book on Bob Cudmore's "The Historians" podcast. I explain why kidnappings occurred, and talk about two of the cases covered in my book: Mary Underhill, from New York City, and Eli Terry, from Indianapolis. Listen

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Solomon Northup portrait from his book Twelve Years a Slave

Who was Solomon Northup?

Solomon Northup was a free black living in upstate New York. He grew up in Washington County, and while living there he farmed, worked doing repairs on the Champlain Canal, got contracts to carry materials on the canal, and sometimes played the fiddle at country dances. Because Northup wrote that he was familiar with the villages along the Erie Canal, it seems likely that he also worked on canal boats in the central and western regions of New York State. In the 1830s, Northup and his wife moved to Saratoga Springs. While there, Northup worked for some of the hotels in that resort community, and also helped build a railroad that served Saratoga. In 1841, Northup was lured to the south and sold as a slave. After nearly 12 years, he was rescued, and returned to his family. His book, Twelve Years a Slave, described his experiences.

The book can still be purchased in many print and electronic editions. Two annotated versions have been published. One, put out by Lousiana State University Press in 1968 and edited by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, is widely available (often economically available from eBay sellers). It's available from Amazon:
LSU edition on Amazon

A 2007 edition titled Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave and Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, prepared by the late Sue Eakin (whom I assisted slightly and who credited me in some of the footnotes). The hardcover edition is no longer in print, but it is available as an audiobook, e-book and paperback. See: Twelve Years a Slave, by Dr. Sue Eakin and Louis Gossett, Jr.

Since it was originally published in 1853, the book is in the public domain, and is available online from several sites including:
     Docsouth (text version)     or
     Google Books, where you can even save a copy on your own computer by clicking on the Gear icon, then use Download PDF.

In 2012, a screen adaptation of Northup's story was filmed in Louisiana, directed by well-known British filmmaker Steve McQueen. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the role of Solomon Northup, and the cast includes many notable performers, including: Lupita Nyong'o, Quvenzhane Wallis, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Sarah Paulson, Dwight Henry, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alfre Woodard, and Chris Berry (who also appeared in Django Unchained). The movie was released in October 2013, and won three Oscars in 2014, including Best Picture.

    Watch the Standard-Definition trailer     Watch the High-Definition trailer 

Watch this featurette about the making of the film 12 Years A Slave from Fox Searchlight.

Information on film adaptations of Northup's book

Video: Legacy of Solomon Northup, which includes me.

Preview of an extra feature from the Blu-ray disc of 12 Years A Slave, which includes me.

Northup's Later Life

My name is David Fiske, and I have done a lot of research on Northup's life after he regained his freedom. (Cathy Dede, with the Glens Falls Chronicle, has called me the "chronicler of all things Solomon Northup.") After the publication of his book, he spoke rather extensively at various places throughout the Northeast (see a  list of his appearances).

There is strong evidence that he was involved with the Underground Railroad in Vermont, helping other blacks to become free [View two letters that mention his involvement (click on Digital Content)]. Sadly, it appears that he had financial problems as time went on, and concrete information about his later life (other than his involvement with the underground railroad) is lacking. The circumstances of his death are unknown (though various scenarios have been suggested, but they are not supported by firm evidence).

My 2012 book Solomon Northup: His Life Before and After Slavery (2012) (no longer in print, but at least one signed copy is available from The Village Booksmith in Hudson Falls, NY) contained information about what Northup's life was like before he was kidnapped, and after his return to New York. In 2013, a book (described at the top of this page) was published, which I co-authored with Clifford Brown and Rachel Seligman, and that book incorporates the information from my earlier work.


Upcoming Presentations

None scheduled.

Schedule a Presentation by David Fiske

If you're interested in hiring me to do a talk, or otherwise want to communicate with me, e-mail me at info@solomonnorthup.com

Print/save a flyer that describes presentations I'm able to give.

See the topics I can present on.

Other ways to contact David Fiske.

Past Presentations

I have done the following presentations on Northup's life:

Articles

In 2011, I wrote some articles about the trial of Northup's alleged kidnappers for a local newspaper, Ballston Spa Life:
      Kidnapping Trial, Part 1
      Kidnapping Trial, Part 2

My article "Rescued by the Law," about Northup, appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of New York Archives magazine.

I wrote a guest column for Adirondack Almanack, about Northup's connection with New York's Adirondacks region.

A version of the article, titled "Twelve Years A Slave: North Country Native Solomon Northup," appeared in the New
York History Blog, and was nominated for a 2013 Adirondack Center for Writing Literary Award, for Feature Article.

I put together an article on Canadian native Samuel Bass.

I wrote some material that was included in the production notes for the film 12 Years a Slave.

Read my article Authenticity and Authorship: Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave on the New York History Blog.

As a musician in antebellum New York State, Solomon Northup was not unique. Read this article I wrote profiling several black musicians in 19th Century New York.

Current Project

Recently, I've been following up my research on Northup with another project. Northup was by no means the only person who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. I've written a book about some of these other victims, titled Solomon Northup's Kindred: The Kidnapping of Free Citizens before the Civil War.

In the Media

Read media coverage of my research on Solomon Northup.

View a slideshow about Northup at slideshare.net.

Solomon Northup Facebook Page

I maintain a Facebook page, with updates/developments on Northup's story. See the Facebook page :
facebook.com/solnorthup Facebook page for Solomon Northup / Twelve Years a Slave

To contact me, e-mail me at info@solomonnorthup.com.

 


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