Twelve Years A Slave

Solomon Northrup's Autobiography: A Warning & A Quest for A Piece of Paper

5/30/20231 min read

Solomon Northrup was bought by a man named Epps: “Soon after he purchased me, Epps asked me if I could write and read, and on being informed that I had received some instruction in those branches of education, he assured me, with emphasis, if he ever caught me with a book, or with a pen and ink, he would give me a hundred lashes. He said he wanted me to understand that he bought ‘[slaves]’ to work and not to educate.”

My great object always was to invent means of getting a letter into the post-office, directed to some of my friends or family at the North. [. . .] I was deprived of pen, ink and paper. [A] slave cannot leave his plantation without a pass, nor will a postmaster mail a letter for one without written instructions from the owner. I was in slavery nine years, and always watchful and on the alert, before I met with the good fortune of obtaining a sheet of paper.