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NYTimes Corrects Original Story From ’12 Years A Slave’ Published In 1853

161 years ago, the New York Times published a story on the “seizure and recovery” of Solomon “Northrup”, a free black man who was kidnapped in 1841 from Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery in Louisiana until he was rescued in 1853. However, his real name was Solomon “Northup”, and social media caught the mistake forcing the New York Times to publish a corrected version of the original article. A twitter user to be exact by the name of Rebecca Skloot, discovered the mistake in the New York Times archive. How cool is that?!?

Solomon Northup story was eventually retold in a memoir written by David Wilson titled, 12 Years A Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup…. The book was very popular when first published, but over the years the book got lost in the shuffle, until it resurfaced in the 1960’s researched and republished by Joseph Logsdon and Sue Eakin.

12 Years A Slave Solomon Northrup In New York Times 1853

Today, most of us know the story of Solomon Northup because of the Academy Award Winning Film 12 Years a Slave, starring Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o and Best Actor Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor. However, it is believed that the New York Times first introduced us to this story 161 years ago. Check out the photo (above) and read an excerpt, plus the letter Solomon Northup wrote to obtain his freedom:

To go back a step in the narrative, the man wrote a letter in June of 1841 to Henry B Northrop, of the State of New York, dated and post marked at New Orleans, stating that he had been kidnapped and was on board a vessel, but was unable to state what his destination was but requesting Mr. N to aid him in recovering his freedom, if possible. Mr. N was unable to do anything in his behalf in consequence of not knowing where he had gone, and not being able to find and trace of him. His place of residence remained unknown until the month of September last, when the following letter was received by his friends:

GENTLEMEN: It having been a long time since I seen or heard from you, and not knowing that you are living, it is with uncertainty that I write to you; but the necessity of the case mist be my excuse. Having been born free just across the river from you, I am certain you must know me; and I am here now a slave. I wish you to obtain free papers for me, and forward them to me at Marksville, La., Parish of Avovelies, and oblige


I love having a piece of history, but apart of me is cracking up at this letter. This man is in slavery and minding his manners with the up most respect and with little sense of urgency to his situation. My, my, my how things have changed. Etiquette has un-evolved over the years along with the art of letter writing. Imagine if Solomon Northup only had a 140 characters or less on twitter demanding his freedom.

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