Solomon Northup was born a free man in Minerva, New York, in 1808. Little is known about his mother, whom his narrative does not identify by name. His father, Mintus, was originally enslaved to the Northup family from Rhode Island, but he was freed after the family moved to New York. As a young man, Northup helped his father with farming chores and worked as a raftsman on the waterways of upstate New York. He married Anne Hampton, a woman of mixed (black, white, and Native American) ancestry, on Christmas Day, 1829. They had three children together. During the 1830s, Northup became locally renowned as an excellent fiddle-player. In 1841, two men offered Northup generous wages to join a traveling musical show, but soon after he accepted,
…show more content…
Northup is put to work stacking and chopping logs at Ford's lumber mill, and he decides to reward his master's kindness. Realizing that Ford ships his lumber by land at great expense, Northup devises a set of rafts to deliver them by canal, greatly increasing Ford's profits. "I was the Fulton of Indian Creek," he recalls (p. 99). He also builds a loom for the plantation that "worked so well, I was continued in the employment of making looms" (p. 103).
Despite (or perhaps because of) his value as a laborer and de facto engineer, Northup is sold in the winter of 1842 to John Tibeats, a "quick-tempered" carpenter to whom Ford had become indebted (p. 103). Unlike Ford, Tibeats is "never satisfied," though he works his slaves "from earliest dawn until late at night" (p. 107). When Tibeats attempts to whip Northup for a dubious offense, Northup fights back, and with his foot on the master's neck, he whips Tibeats "until my right arm ached" (p. 111). When Tibeats and two associates attempt to lynch Northup, a kindly overseer (armed with pistols) intervenes and saves his life. Because he had not yet paid Ford the full amount for Northup, Tibeats is compelled to spare him for a time. Later, when he attacks Northup with a hatchet, the slave again bests the master, and this time he flees from the plantation, chased by hounds. Northup escapes by running and swimming through