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On This Day… Twelve Years A Slave!

Written by: George Chittenden : 26 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 4th January back in 1853 when Solomon Northup was freed from a life of slavery in Louisiana and returned home. Twelve years earlier, Solomon a talented violinist was kidnapped from Washington City, and sold for $650. During the entire twelve-year period, Solomon Northup’s friends and family, including his wife and two young children had no way of knowing where he was.

It was the work of a plantation worker who sent several letters north on Solomon’s behalf that earned him his freedom. The slave dealer responsible for the kidnapping, James H. Burch, had given Solomon a hundred lashes and threatened to kill him if he ever stated to anyone that he was a free man.

Eventually when the case went to trial Solomon Northup was unable to take the stand, because Washington law prohibited black witnesses from testifying against white defendants. Burch was acquitted because he claimed he’d thought Northup was truly a slave for sale, and Northup couldn’t testify otherwise.

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