At the moment depicted in this scene, Solomon Northup ("Platt") realizes that his hope for freedom, for a dozen years, has not been in vain. He is rescued from a life of slavery when Henry B. Northup tells him to throw down his work sack because his "cotton-picking days are over." This image, from Northup's book 12 Years a Slave, appears between pages 304 and 305 of Northup's original book. Image online, courtesy "Documenting the American South," via University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
When Henry Northup and the local sheriff arrived at the Epps plantation—located along the banks of Bayou Bouef near a Louisiana village known today as Holmesville—the sheriff asked for a slave named Platt.
Someone pointed-out Solomon.
"Your name is Platt, is it?" he asked.
"Yes, master," I responded.
Pointing towards Northup, standing a few rods distant, he demanded—"Do you know that man?"
I looked in the direction indicated, and as my eyes rested on his countenance, a world of images thronged my brain; a multitude of well-known faces ...
"Henry B. Northup! Thank God—thank God!"
In an instant I comprehended the nature of his business, and felt that the hour of my deliverance was at hand. I started towards him, but the sheriff stepped before me. (See 12 Years a Slave, at page 154 of an online version of the book.)
The sheriff had to ask his questions:
"Stop a moment," said he; "have you any other name than Platt?"
"Solomon Northup is my name, master," I replied.
"Have you a family?" he inquired.
"I had a wife and three children."
"What were your children's names?"
"Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo."
"And your wife's name before her marriage?"
"Who married you?"
"Timothy Eddy, of Fort Edward."
"Where does that gentleman live?" again pointing to Northup, who remained standing in the same place where I had first recognized him.
"He lives in Sandy Hill, Washington county, New York," was the reply. (See 12 Years a Slave, at pages 154-155 of an online version of the book.)
Northup couldn’t wait for the sheriff to get through any further questions. Instead, he went straight to Henry Northup:
"Sol," he said at length, "I'm glad to see you."
Solomon knew his moment of freedom had finally arrived.
...emotion choked all utterance, and I was silent. The slaves, utterly confounded, stood gazing upon the scene, their open mouths and rolling eyes indicating the utmost wonder and astonishment.
For ten years I had dwelt among them, in the field and in the cabin, borne the same hardships, partaken the same fare, mingled my griefs with theirs, participated in the same scanty joys; nevertheless, not until this hour, the last I was to remain among them, had the remotest suspicion of my true name, or the slightest knowledge of my real history been entertained by any one of them.
Not a word was spoken for several minutes, during which time I clung fast to Northup, looking up into his face, fearful I should awake and find it all a dream.
"Throw down that sack," Northup added, finally; "your cotton-picking days are over...” (12 Years a Slave, pages 301-303 of online version of the book.)
The in-text map was commissioned by Sue Eakin who was responsible for resurrecting the story of Solomon Northup and having his book, "12 Years a Slave," republished during 1968. Online via Professor Mary Niall Mitchell, from the University of New Orleans, via her article "The Civil War at 150," published in Common-place The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Inc. Professor Mitchell tells us more about the map: "A map commissioned by Sue Eakin from local cartographer and surveyor Rufus Smith (1970). Signed by Eakin. Courtesy of Ethel and Herman Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies, New Orleans, Louisiana."
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