Twelve Years a Slave

by Solomon Northup

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Introductory — Ancestry — The Northup Family — Birth and 
Parentage -«- Mintus North up — Marriage "with Anne Hamp- 
ton — Good Resolutions — Champlain Canal — Eafting Ex- 
cursion to Canada — Farming — The Violin — Cooking — ■ 
Removal to Saratoga — Parker and Perry — Slaves and Sla- 
very—The Children — The Beginning of Sorrow 11 


The two Strangers — The Circus Company — Departure from 
Saratoga — Ventriloquism and Legerdemain — Journey to 
New-York — Free Papers — Brown and Hamilton — The 
haste to reach the Circus — Arrival in Washington — Fune- 
ral of Harrison — The Sudden Sickness — The Torment of 
Thirst — The Receding Light — Insensibility — Chains and 
Darkness, 28 


Painful Meditations — James H. Burch — Williams' Slave Pen 
in Washington — The Lackey, Radburn — Assert my Free- 
dom — The Anger of the Trader — The Paddle and Cat-o'-nine- 
tails — The Whipping — New Acquaintances — Ray, Williams, 
and Randall — Arrival of Little Emily and her Mother in the 
Pen — Maternal Sorrows — The Story of Eliza, 40 


Efisa's Sorrows — Preparation to Embark — Driven Through 
*h* Streets of Washington — Hail, Columbia — The Tomb of 
Washington — Clem Ray — The Breakfast en the Steamer — 
The happy Birds — Aquia Creek — Fredericksburgh — Arri- 
val in Richmond — Goodin and his Slave Pen — Robert, of 
Cincinnati — David and his Wife — Mary and Lethe — Clem'a 
Keturn — His subsequent Escape to Canada — The Brig Or- 
leans — James H. Burch, 54 


Awiral at Norfolk — Frederick and Maria — Arthur, the Free- 
man — Appointed Steward — Jim, Cuffee, and Jenny — The 
fitorm — Bahama Banks — The Calm — The Conspiracy — The 
Jjong Boat — The Small-Pox — Death of Robert — Manning, 
tha Sailor — The Meeting in the Forecastle — The Letter — 
sirrival at New-Orleans — Arthur's Rescue — Theophilus Free- 
man, the Consignee — Piatt — First Night in the New-Orleans-
Slave-Pen, 65 


#reernan's Industry — Cleanliness and Clothes — Exercising in 
the Show Room — The Dance — Bob, the Fiddler — Arrival 
of Customers — Slaves Examined — The Old Gentleman of 
New-Orleans — Sale of David, Caroline, and Lethe — Parting 
of Randall and Eliza — Small-Pox — The Hospital — Recov- 
ery and Return to Freeman's Slave Pen — The Purchaser of 
Eliea, Harry, and Piatt — Eliza's Agony on Parting from 
Little Emily 18 


fhe Steamboat Rodolph — Departure from New-Orleans — Wil- 
liam Ford — Arrival at Alexandria, on Red River — Resolu- 
tions — The Great Pine Woods — Wild Cattle — Martin's Sum- 
mer Residence — The Texas Road — Arrival at Master Ford's 
— Rose — Mistress Ford — Sally and her Children — John, the 
Oook — Walter, Sam, and Antony — The Mills on Indian 
Creek — Sabbath Days — Sam's Conversion — The Profit of 


Kindness — Rafting — Adam Taydeni, the Little White Man — 
Cascalla and his Tribe — The Indian Ball — John M. Tibeats 
— The Storm approaching, Ford's Embarrassments — The Sale 
to Tibeats — The Chattel Mortgage — Mistress Ford's Plantation 
on Bayou Bceuf — Description of the Latter — Ford's Brother-
indaw, Peter Tan- ner — Meeting with Eliza — She still Mourns 
for her Chil- dren — Ford's Overseer, Chapin — Tibeats' Abuse 
— The Keg of Kails — The First Fight with Tibeats — His 
Discomfiture and Castigation — The attempt to Hang me — 
Chapin's In- terference and Speech — Unhappy Reflections 
— Abrupt Departure of Tibeats, Cook, and Ramsey — Lawson 
and the Brown Mule — Message to the Pine "Woods, 105 


The Hot Sun — Yet bound — The Cords, sink into my Flesh — 
Chapin's Uneasiness — Speculation — Rachel, and her Cup of 
Water — Suffering increases — 'The Happiness of Slavery — ^ 
Arrival of Ford — He cuts the Cords which bind me, and 
takes the Rope from my Neck — Misery — The gathering of 
the Slaves in Eliza's Cabin — Their Kindness — Rachel Re- 
peats the Occurrences of the Day — Lawson entertains his 
Companions with an Account of his Ride — Chapin's appre- 
hensions of Tibeats — Hired to Peter Tanner — Peter ex- 
pounds the Scriptures — Description of the Stocks, 118 


Return to Tibeats — Impossibility of pleasing him — He at- 
tacks me with a Hatchet — The Struggle over the Broad Axe 
— The Temptation to Murder him — Escape across the Plan- 
tation — Observations from the Fence — Tibeats approaches, 
followed by the Hounds — They take my Track — Their loud 
Tells — They almost overtake me — I reach the Water — 
The Hounds confused — Moccasin Snakes — Alligators — Night 
in the "Great Pacoudrie Swamp" — The Sounds of Life — 
North-West Course — Emerge into the Pine "Woods — Slave 
and his Young Master — Arrival at Ford's — Food and Rest, 131 


The Mistress' Garden — The Crimson and Golden Fruit — Or- 
ange and Pomegranate Trees — Return to Bayou Bceuf — 
Master Ford's Remarks on the way — The Meeting with Tib- 
eats — His Account of the Chase — Ford censures hia Brutal- 
ity — 'Arrival at the Plantation — Astonishment of the Slaves 
on seeing me — The anticipated Flogging — Kentucky John 
—Mr. Eldret, the Planter — Eldret's Sam — Trip to the "Big 
Cane Brake" — The Tradition of "Sutton's Field" — Forest 
Trees — Gnats and Mosquitoes — The Arrival of Black Wo- 
men in the Big Cane — Lumber Women — Sudden Appear- 
ance of Tibeats — His Provoking Treatment — Visit to Ba- 
you Bcauf — The Slave Pass — Southern Hospitality — The 
Last of Eliza — Sale to Edwin Epps, 146 


Personal Appearance of Epps — Epps, Drunk and Sober — A 
Glimpse of his History — Cotton Growing — The Mode of 
Ploughing and Preparing Ground — Of Planting, of Hoe- 
ing, of Picking, of Treating Raw Hands — The difference in 
Cotton Pickers — Patsey a remarkable one — Tasked accord- 
ing to Ability — Beauty of a Cotton Field — The Slave's La- 
bors — Fear of Approaching the Gin-House — Weighing — 
" Chores"— Cabin Life — The Corn Mill — The Uses of the 
Gourd — Fear of Oversleeping — Fear continually — Mode 
of Cultivating Corn — Sweet Potatoes — Fertility of the Soil 
— Fattening Hogs — Preserving Bacon — Raising Cattle — 
Shooting-Matches— Garden Products — Flowers and Verdure, 162 


The Curious Axe-Helve — Symptoms of approaching Hlness — 
Continue to decline — The Whip ineffectual — Confined 
to the Cabin — Visit by Dr. "Wines — Partial Recovery — Fail- 
ure at Cotton Picking — What may be heard on Epps' Plan- 
tation—Lashes Graduated — Epps in a Whipping Mood — 
Epps in a Dancing Mood — Description of the Dance — Loss 
of Rest no Excuse — Epps' Characteristics — Jim Burns — Re- 
moval from Huff Power to Bayou Bceuf — Description of 
Uncle Abram; of Wiley; of Aunt Phebe; of Bob, Henry, 
and Edward ; of Patsey ; with a Genealogical Account of 
each — Something of their Past History, and Peculiar Char- 
acteristics — Jealousy and Lust — Patsey, the Victim, 1Y6 


Destruction of the Cotton Crop in 1845 — Demand for Laborers 
in St. Mary's Parish — Sent thither in a Drove — The Order 
of the March — The Grand Coteau — Hired to Judge Turner on 
Bayou Salle — Appointed Driver in his Sugar House — Sun- 
day Services — Slave Furniture ; how obtained — The Party 
at Yarney's, in Centreville — Good Fortune — The Captain 
of the Steamer — His Refusal to Secrete me — Return to Ba- 
you Boeuf — Sight of Tibeats — Patsey's Sorrows — Tumult 
and Contention — Hunting the Coon and Opossum — The 
Cunning of the latter — The Lean Condition of the Slave — 
Description of the Fish Trap — The Murder of the Man from 
Natchez — Epps Chalenged by Marshall — The Influence of 
Slavery — The Love of Freedom, 191 


Labors on Sugar Plantations — The Mode of Planting Cane — 
of Hoeing Cane — Cane Ricks — Cutting Cane — Description 
of the Cane Knife — Winrowing — Preparing for Succeeding 
Crops — Description of Hawkins' Sugar Mill on Bayou Boeuf 
— The Christmas Holidays — The Carnival Season of the 
Children of Bondage — The Christmas Supper — Red, the Fa- 
vorite Color — The Violin, and the Consolation it afforded — 
The Christmas Dance — Lively, the Coquette — Sam Roberts, 
and his Rivals — Slave Songs — Southern Life as it is — Three 
Days in the Year — The System of Marriage — Uncle Abram's 
Contempt of Matrimony « 203 


Overseers — 'How they are Armed and Accompanied — The 
Homicide — His Execution at Marksville — Slave Drivers — 
Appointed Driver on removing to Bayou Boeuf — Practice 
makes perfect — Epps's Attempt to Cut Piatt's Throat — The 
Escape from him — Protected by the Mistress — Forbids Read- 
ing and "Writing — Obtain a Sheet of Paper after Nine Years' 
Effort — The Letter — Armsby, the Mean White — Partially 
Confide in him — His Treachery — Epps' Suspicions — How 
they were quieted — Burning the Letter — Amisby leaves 
the Bayou— Disappointment and Despair, 228 


Wiley disregards the counsels of Aunt Phebe and Uncle Abram, 
and is caught by the Patrollers — The Organization and Du- 
ties of the latter — "Wiley Runs Away — Speculations in re- 
jg&rd to him — His Unexpected Return — His Capture on the 
Red River, and Confinement in Alexandria Jail— Discovered 
by Joseph B. Roberts — Subduing Dogs in anticipation of 
Escape — The Fugitives in the Great Pine Woods — Captur- 
ed by Adam Taydem and the Indians — Augustus killed by 
Dogs — Nelly, Eldret's Slave "Woman — The Story of Celeste 
— The Concerted Movement — Lew Cheney, the Traitor — 
The Idea of Insurrection, 286 


CNiel, the Tanner — Conversation with Aunt Phebe overheard 
— Epps in the Tanning Business — Stabbing of Uncle Abram 
— The Ugly Wound — Epps is Jealous — Patsey is Missing — 
Her Return from Shaw's — Harriet, Shaw's Black Wife — 
Eppa Enraged — Patsey denies his Charges — She is Tied 
Down Naked to Four Stakes — The Inhuman Flogging — 
"Flaying of Patsey — The Beauty of the Day — The Bucket of 
Salt Water — The Dress stiff with Blood — Patsey grows 
Melancholy — Her Idea of God and Eternity — Of Heaven and 
Freedom — The Effect of Slave-Whipping — Epps' Oldest Son 


Avery, on Bayou Rouge — Peculiarity of Dwellings — Epp3 
builds a New House — Bass, the Carpenter — His Noble Qual- 
ities — His Personal Appearance and Eccentricities — Bass 
and Epps discuss the Question of Slavery — Epps' Opinion 
of Bass — I make myself known to him — Our Conversation 
— His Surprise — The Midnight Meeting on the Bayou Bank 
— Bass' Assurances — Declares "War against Slavery — Why 
I did not Disclose my History — Bass writes Letters — Copy 
of his Letter to Messrs. Parker and Perry — The Fever of 
Suspense — Disappointments — Bass endeavors to cheer me 
—My Faith in him, 263 


Bass faithful to his word — His Arrival on Christmas Eve — 
The Difficulty of Obtaining an Interview — The Meeting in 
the Cabin — Son-arrival of the Letter — Bass announces his 
Intention to proceed North — Christmas — Coversation be- 
tween Epps and Bass — Young Mistress McCoy, the Beauty 
of Bayou Bceuf — The "Ne plus ultra" of Dinners — Music 
and Dancing — Presence of the Mistress — Her Exceeding 
Beauty — The Last Slave Dance — "William Pierce — Over- 
sleep myself ^-The Last Whipping — Despondency — Cold 
Morning — Epps' Threats — The Passing Carriage — Stran- 
gers approaching through the Cotton-Field — Last Hour on 
Bayou Bceuf, 279 


The Letter reaches Saratoga — Is forwarded to Anne — Is laid 
before Henry B. Northup — The Statute of May 14, 1840 — 
Its Provisions — Anne's Memorial to the Governor — The af- 
fidavits Accompanying it — Senator Soule's Letter — Depar- 
ture of the Agent appointed by the Governor — Arrival at 
Marksville — The Hon. John P. Waddill — The Conversation 
on New-York Politics — It suggests a Fortunate Idea — The 
Meeting with Bass — The Secret out — Legal Proceedings in- 
stituted — Departure of Northup and the Sheriff from Marks-
ville for Bayou Boeuf — Arrangements on the Way — Reach 
Epps' Plantation — Discover his Slaves in the Cotton-Field — 
The Meeting — The Farewell, 289 


Arrival in New-Orleans — Glimpse of Freeman — Genois, the 
Recorder — His Description of Solomon — Reach Charleston 
Interrupted by Custom House Officers — Pass through Rich- 
mond — Arrival in Washington — Burch Arrested — Shekels 
and Thorn — Their Testimony — Burch Acquitted — Arrest 
of Solomon — Burch withdraws the Complaint — The High- 
er Tribunal — Departure from Washington — Arrival at San- 
dy Hill — Old Friends and Familiar Scenes — Proceed to 
Glens Falls — Meeting with Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth — 
Solomon Northup Staunton — Incidents — Conclusion, S10 

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It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.