Solomon Northup was a black man who was born a free man at a time when slavery was still legal in America. He was born in Minerva, New York, in the year 1808 (Northup 19). Northup’s father, Mintus, was originally a slave of the Northup family in Rhode Island. He was freed when the family relocated to New York. When he was growing up as a young adult, Northup helped his father with farming chores and became a raftsman for a short while on the waterways of New York. As an adult, Northup married Anne Hampton, who was of mixed heritage on Christmas day of 1829. Together, they had three children. Over the years Northup became a famous fiddle player, and this gave him recognition in his town.
As a free man in a world where blacks were either in
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After regaining his freedom, Northup wrote a memoir titled “Twelve Years a Slave” which chronicled his life as a slave in the south. In this book, he tells about life under various masters and how he made futile attempts to communicate with his family over the years. Most of his masters were extremely brutal. For instance, his first master was the notorious James H. Burch, a slave trader from Washington who flogged him mercilessly for insisting that he was a free man. It is under Burch that he meets Eliza, who is brought to the slave pen with her daughter to join her son who had already been caught.
From this point on, it becomes obvious that slavery is a gendered experience. From the very first time that Northup is enslaved in Washington, he notices all of the women surrounding him. In his book, he gives the reader a detailed account their marital statuses, children, skills, personalities and physical attributes. Essentially, male and female slaves are treated differently. Throughout his book, Northup portrays differences in labor, demands and expectations of masters from female slaves. When Northup first meets Eliza in Burch’s slave pen, they are transported to a ship that will send them to the south, where they can be sold to other slave masters (Northup 53). While in the ship, it becomes apparent that Eliza has a dark future in store for her. Under the cover of darkness, a slave comes to the room they are being held and rapes