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EXCERPT FROM TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE: NARRATIVE OF SOLOMON NORTHUP, A CITIZEN OF NEW-YORK, KIDNAPPED
1853
Cited in Yuval Taylor, ed. I WAS BORN A SLAVE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CLASSIC SLAVE NARRATIVES. vol 2. (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1999.)

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Solomon Northup was a free black man, kidnapped from his home in New York and sold into slavery on a Louisiana cotton plantation. Eventually, Solomon was rescued from captivity. In this excerpt from the narrative of his life, he remembers his bittersweet reunion with a family from whom he had been separated for twelve years.


We left Washington on the 20th of January, and proceeding by the way of Philadelphia, New-York, and Albany, reached Sandy Hill in the night of the 21st. My heart overflowed with happiness as I looked around upon old familiar scenes, and found myself in the midst of friends of other days. The following morning I started, in company with several acquaintances, for Glens Falls, the residence of Anne and our children.

As I entered their comfortable cottage, Margaret was the first that met me. She did not recognize me. When I left her, she was but seven years old, a little prattling girl, playing with her toys. Now she was grown to womanhood -- was married, with a bright-eyed boy standing by her side. Not forgetful of his enslaved, unfortunate grand-father, she had named the child Solomon Northup Staunton. When told who I was, she was overcome with emotion, and unable to speak. Presently Elizabeth entered the room, and Anne came running from the hotel, having been informed of my arrival. They embraced me, and with tears flowing down their cheeks, hung upon my neck. But I draw a veil over a scene which can better be imagined than described.

When the violence of our emotions had subsided to a sacred joy -- when the household gathered round the fire, that sent out its warm and crackling comfort through the room, we conversed of the thousand events that had occurred -- the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows, the trials and troubles we had each experienced during the long separation. Alonzo was absent in the western part of the State. The boy had written to his mother a short time previous, of the prospect of his obtaining sufficient money to purchase my freedom. From his earliest years, that had been the chief object of his thoughts and his ambition. They knew I was in bondage. The letter written on board the brig, and Clem Ray himself, had given them that information. But where I was, until the arrival of Bass' letter, was a matter of conjecture. Elizabeth and Margaret once returned from school -- so Anne informed me -- weeping bitterly. On inquiring the cause of the children's sorrow, it was found that, while studying geography, their attention had been attracted to the picture of slaves working in the cotton-field, and an overseer following them with his whip. It reminded them of the sufferings father might be, and as it happened, actually was, enduring in the South. Numerous incidents, such as these, were related -- incidents showing they still held me in constant remembrance, but not, perhaps, of sufficient interest to the reader, to be recounted.

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