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Photo of Northup descendants with Saratoga Springs Mayor O'Connell
Northup descendants assembled with Saratoga Springs Mayor O'Connell after the presentation of a Northup historical marker, July 1999

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Solomon Northup Day
A Local Legacy

Before the Civil War, if you were black and born a free man you could still be forced into slavery. That's what happened to Solomon Northup.

Northup was born a free man in Minerva, New York, in 1808. He was a carpenter and talented fiddler. In 1834, he and his wife moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, where they had three children. In 1841, Northup met two men who claimed to be from a circus. Because he needed the money, Northup agreed to join them as a fiddler in Washington, D.C. Once they reached Washington, however, the men drugged, chained, robbed, and sold him to a slave trader.

Northup was shipped south to New Orleans, along with other slaves, where he was sold in a slave market. He spent the next 12 years as a slave, working for three masters. Northup worked hard and endured much cruelty, but he was always looking for the chance to escape or contact his family and friends in New York. Finally, in 1852, Northup befriended Samuel Bass, a Canadian carpenter. With his help, Northup sent a letter to his friends in New York. Through the help of his friends, he regained his freedom in 1853. Northup returned to New York, where he was finally reunited with his family.

Northup wrote a memoir, Twelve Years as a Slave, about his experiences. But this book isn't his only legacy. Northup has many descendants, who gathered together in Saratoga Springs on July 24, 1999, for a tribute to their ancestor. The town of Saratoga Springs declared July 24 as Solomon Northup Day to remember the suffering of Northup and other African Americans who lived as slaves.

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