Twelve Years a Slave

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Solomon Northup was a free man, then lured to Washington D. C. and put into slavery from 1841 to 1853. His father, Mintus Northup, was owned by a family named Northup, who came from Rhode Island to New York. Henry B. Northup was a relative of that family. After the owner of Solomon’s father dies, his father is now a free man. Shortly after, his father moved to Essex county, N. Y. , where Solomon Northup was born on July, 1808. Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton, and had three children: Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. In March 1834, they moved to Saratoga Springs and lived in the U. S. Hotel.

Solomon Northup was an excellent and well-known violin player. While walking on the corner of Broadway and Congress Street, he was met by two strangers: Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton. They had heard about his violin skills, and asked him to take part in their circus company. They were to travel around and perform. He was offered large amounts of money and a quick return. After taking the offer, they traveled around and Northup made a good bit of money. One day they offered to go to Washington D. C. , a slave state at the time. He was promised to be taken care of and nothing would happen as long as he had his Free Papers.

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While Brown and Hamilton stopped at various saloons and were drinking, he became very ill. At the time, they were staying in the Gadsby’s Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. While resting in his room, several people entered and were advising him that he needed to go see a doctor now. While walking with them on the streets of Washington, he was suddenly kidnapped and chained in a basement. The next day he awoke and met by James H. Burch and Ebenezer Radburn. He was in the Williams’ slave pen in Washington, right next to the White House. There he met Eliza and her two children Randall and Emily, who were also slaves.

Northup ended up being taken to Richmond, Virginia where he was put in Mr. Goodin’s slave pen by Burch. Burch renamed Northup; Platt. Shortly after, he was to be transferred to New Orleans, where he departed from Burch. While on the brig Orleans, he met a sailor named Manning who he secretly spoke to and wrote a letter for him to bring to his family. It was to let them know what happened and where he was, but sadly the letter never made it to New York. He arrived in New Orleans and taken by Theophilus Freeman, was put in a New Orleans slave pen. While in the slave pen in New Orleans, Platt became very ill again along with other slaves.

He ended up being sold to William Ford. After riding on the Steamboat Rodolph, he was taken by Ford to The Great Pine Woods in Alexandria, on the Red River. After sometime on Ford’s plantation, he was sold to John M. Tibeats over debt issues with Ford. After being beat until he couldn’t take it anymore, Platt fought back. He was almost hung by Tibeats, when Chapin the overseer stopped him and called on Ford to stop the madness. After the struggles with Tibeat; Peter Tanner, brother of Mistress Ford, hired Platt under a guy named Myers.

Being brought back to Tibeats after sometime, he was again hired by Mr. Eldret and taken to the “Big Cane Break. ” After sometime there, he was brought back to Tibeats. Platt found out he had been sold to Edwin Epps. He was held there in brutal slavery for ten years, when he met Bass. After a few secret meetings with Bass, he wrote a letter to his family again and Bass promised he would get it to New York. It finally arrives in New York, when Henry B. Northup comes all the way to New Orleans to rescue him. He is brought his free papers, rescued from slavery, and brought back to his family after twelve years. Violence and religion play big roles in the institution of slavery.

Slave women were endlessly beaten and sexually abused by white men of all classes. Slaves were not allowed to learn or even speak to each other while working. They worked from morning to night and depending on the master, were given a few days off on Christmas. Slaves were always watched and whipped if any lack of work or something not done right. Sometimes they would receive hundreds of lashes, just for oversleeping or shortage of work. The mistress of the house was often times just as bad as the owner himself. For example; Patsey, one of Epps’ slaves, came back from visiting a neighbor plantation on a Sabbath day.

Mistress Epps hated Patsey. When Epps came home one day from drinking, she complained about Patsey leaving and they brutally beat her. He made Platt whip her until he refused to go on, and then Epps finished her off himself. John M. Tibeats was a cruel man, and hated Platt. After so many unnecessary beatings and until he couldn’t take anymore; Platt fought back, grabbed the whip, and beat Tibeats to the ground. He was almost hung, but saved by Chapin and Ford. The second time, Tibeats tried to attack Platt with a hatchet and he defended himself by fighting back. He then ran away, thinking he would be killed either way.

He was chased by hounds and stayed in the swamps overnight. Tibeats and Edwin Epps were evil men, and enjoyed the sufferings of slaves. Epps would often get drunk. Then, he would be even more spiteful to the slaves and order them relentlessly. While intoxicated, he would love to order and beat his slaves. However, slavery taught slaves to be hard working. Slaves found satisfaction and pride in their daily accomplishments, even knowing they gained few benefits from the labor that made their owners rich. Celebrating their own skills and knowledge, slaves ridiculed the ignorance and incompetence of their owners.

Every day slaves thought of escape. Northup had it all planned out to escape the brig Orleans, when Robert, his fellow slave, died from illness. He also escapes Tibeats as already stated. There is many times when slaves were drove to the edge, and fought back. After fighting back, they have no choice but to run away. The punishments would be severe, if not death. In my opinion, religion is more important to sustaining the role of slavery. Violence only made slaves hate their masters even more. Although violence was sometimes needed to discipline, most masters took it way too far.

If you continuously abuse your slaves, they become weak, tired, and injured; and some slaves would fight back or escape. Northup talks about William Ford and how he used religion with his slaves. He would preach to them and read the Bible. He treated his slaves as nice as possible , and had respect from all his slaves. Because of Ford’s hospitality, Northup had no problem being hard working. He realized he was in slavery and nothing he or Ford could do about it. So, he did his work and Ford was very lenient with him. After being with Tibeats and Epps, he sees how different it was from a slaves point of view.

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Twelve Years a Slave. (2016, Oct 14). Retrieved from

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