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November 9, 2013

Infamous slavery story hits home

PLATTSBURGH — Freeborn Adirondacker Solomon Northup is the subject of “Twelve Years A Slave,” screening this weekend at movie theaters in Plattsburgh.

The film, based on Northup’s 1853 autobiography, is directed by Steven McQueen, a British director.

Since its world premiere at the 40th Telluride Film Festival in August, buzz has escalated on this side of the Atlantic about the film, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as the black man, who was born free in July 1808 in Minerva.

LURED AWAY

Northup’s father, Mintus, only received his freedom in New York upon the death of his owner, who relocated from Rhode Island and died Sept. 1, 1797, according to Don Papson, historian and founder/curator of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausable Chasm.

Northup grew up in the southern Adirondacks and was employed along the Champlain Canal, according to Peter Slocum, also of the association.

In 1841, he lived in Saratoga Springs with his wife, Ann Hampton, and three children — Margaret, Elizabeth and Alonzo.  At the United States Hotel, he was a “hack,” driving carriages; he encouraged enslaved people to escape, Papson said.

Northup also earned money playing the violin and was lured to Washington, D.C., with the promise of lucrative gigs. 

His nefarious bookers drugged him and hooked him to a floor in chains. Sold as “Platt,” he was transported to William Ford’s New Orleans plantation and began a dozen years in bondage.

‘BRUTAL HONESTY’

Though the film is not scheduled for release until January 2014 in the United Kingdom, it has garnered critical acclaim in the United States for its brutal honesty and faithfulness to a narrative written by Northup about his experience.

The cast includes Michael Fassbender (Edwin Epps), Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey), Brad Pitt (Samuel Bass), Alfre Woodard (Mistress Harriet Shaw) and Quvenzhané Wallis (Margaret Northup).

“Twelve Years A Slave” is so hot right now, it’s hard for theaters to obtain it.

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