Know Your Neighbours – Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup was born on July 10th, 1808 to a manumitted black slave named Mintus who took on his former master’s surname; Northup. His mother was a “quadroon”, one quarter black and three quarters European.

Solomon married Ann Hampton, of mixed race, in 1829. They had 3 children. In 1834 they moved to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. where Solomon worked in railroad construction, as a carpenter and playing the violin. In 1841 he was tricked by two men calling themselves Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton, into going with them to Washington D.C. on the pretense of a job offer. He was sold into slavery, first to James Birch, a slave trader, and then sent to Theophilus Freeman in New Orleans who sold him to William Ford, a planter on the Red River. Later he was sold to William Epps, his master for the ensuing ten years. Eventually he was befriended by a Canadian carpenter, Samuel Bass, whose mediation led to his rescue and return to his family.

Northup’s attempts to bring his kidnapper to justice were unsuccessful but the memoir of his slave years, which he wrote with some assistance, was a best seller. He also devoted his energies to a series of public lectures about his experiences and how he regained his freedom. The circumstances of his death are unknown. Saratoga Springs celebrates the third Sunday in July as Solomon Northup Day

Solomon Northup died in 1863.

1976-200-35C-1856 edition
Photo Attribution: St. Catharines Museum, 1976.200.35

Northup is the focus of the book and movie “12 Years a Slave” that was released in 2013. The St. Catharines Museum is in possession of an 1856 edition of this book.


The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre, located next to Lock 3 of the historic Welland Canal, is a leading local history museum and community gathering place, engaging visitors and building relationships with partners, while demonstrating curatorial leadership and innovative programming and exhibits. The St. Catharines Museum is dedicated to engaging visitors in the celebration of our local stories and the cultural identity and history of the City. We are a community resource that interprets, exhibits, researches, acquires, and preserves material culture and stories of St. Catharines.

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