Solomon Northup (July 1808 - after 1857) was a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs, New York. He is noted for having been kidnapped in 1841 when enticed with a job offer. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington, DC, they drugged him and sold him into slavery. From Washington, DC, he was transported to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner from Rapides Parish, Louisiana. After 12 years in bondage, he regained his freedom in January 1853; he was one of very few to do so in such cases. Held in the Red River region of Louisiana by several different owners, he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the Governor of New York, Washington Hunt in his cause. New York state had passed a law in 1840 to recover African-American residents who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.
Northup sued the slave traders in Washington, DC, but lost in the local court. District of Columbia law prohibited him as a black man from testifying against whites and, without his testimony, he was unable to sue for civil damages. The two men were charged with the crime of kidnapping and remanded into custody on $5000 bail but without Northup's testimony a conviction could not be secured and the men were released. Returning to his family in New York, Northup became active in abolitionism. He published an account of his experiences in Twelve Years a Slave (1853) in his first year of freedom. Northup gave dozens of lectures throughout the Northeast on his experiences as a slave in order to support the abolitionist cause.
The circumstances of Northup's death are uncertain and no contemporary record of him exists after 1857.
Solomon Northup's memoir was reprinted several times later in the 19th century. An annotated version was published in 1968, edited by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon. Since 1999, Saratoga Springs, New York, has celebrated an annual Solomon Northup Day. The memoir was adapted and produced as a 2013 film with the same name by Steve McQueen, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup.