Solomon Northup
The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave
by David Fiske, Clifford W. Brown, and Rachel Seligman
August 2013, 225pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-2974-1
$65, £50, 57€, A90
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eBook Available: 978-1-4408-2975-8
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Born a free man, Northup was a farmer, carpenter, violinist, and lecturer.

A companion to the classic African-American autobiographical narrative, Twelve Years A Slave, this work presents fascinating new information about the 1841 kidnapping, 1853 rescue, and pre- and post-slavery life of Solomon Northup.

Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years A Slave provides a compelling chronological narrative of Northup’s entire life, from his birth in an isolated settlement in upstate New York to the activities he pursued after his release from slavery. This comprehensive biography of Solomon Northup picks up where earlier annotated editions of his narrative left off, presenting fascinating, previously unknown information about the author of the autobiographical Twelve Years A Slave.

This book examines Northup’s life as a slave and reveals details of his life after he regained his freedom, relating how he traveled around the Northeast giving public lectures, worked with an Underground Railroad agent in Vermont to help fugitive slaves reach freedom in Canada, and was connected with several theatrical productions based upon his experiences. The tale of Northup’s life demonstrates how the victims of the American system of slavery were not just the slaves themselves, but any free person of color—all of whom were potential kidnap victims, and whose lives were affected by that constant threat.


  • For the first time, a book documents the full story of Northup's life—the basis of the 2013 movie, Twelve Years a Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Paul Giamatti
  • Supplies detailed coverage of Northup's pursuits after his release from slavery: educating the public via his book, his lectures, and dramatic presentations; and his efforts to help others gain freedom through his work on the underground railroad
  • Provides a list of more than two dozen places and dates where Northup appeared following the publication of his book
David Fiske, MLS, is a writer and independent researcher. He was previously senior librarian at the New York State Library. He is the author of Solomon Northup: His Life Before and After Slavery. Fiske holds a master's degree in library science from the University at Albany.

Clifford W. Brown, PhD, is Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Government at Union College, Schenectady, NY. His published works include Struggles in the State: Sources and Patterns of World Revolution; Jaws of Victory: The Game-Plan Politics of 1972; A Campaign of Ideas; and Serious Money: Fundraising and Contributing in Presidential Nomination Campaigns. Brown holds a doctorate from Harvard University.

Rachel Seligman, MFA, is Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. She was one of the principal organizers of a major exhibition on the life of Solomon Northup at Union College's Nott Memorial Hall in 1999. She has organized numerous historical and interdisciplinary exhibitions. Seligman holds a master's degree in art history from George Washington University.


"The best available text on Northup’s life and obscure death is Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave."—Los Angeles Review of Books, February 17, 2014

"Useful for anyone looking deeply into background information on Solomon Northup. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, January 1, 2014

"An assiduously footnoted companion to the original autobiography."—Mark Robichaux for The Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2013

"Solomon Northup's life and memoir are amongst the most important documentary evidence in the history of slavery in the United States. History has treated Northup unfairly, much as he was treated in life. He was born a free African American citizen of New York State but kidnapped in 1841 and transported south where he disappeared into enslavement in Louisiana. After regaining freedom in 1853, Northup campaigned against slavery and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, only to disappear from the historical record during the Civil War. Northup's memoir and life were rediscovered in the 1960s but have been neglected by historians and teachers for decades, only to be rediscovered again and retold in this excellent account."—Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership, Hofstra University

"This informative and meticulously researched manuscript serves as a companion to Northup’s influential account of kidnapping from upstate New York and subsequent slavery in pre-Civil War Louisiana. The authors provide extensive detail about Northup’s life and times, placing his experiences in specific historical context and offering valuable commentary on the tale Northup so compellingly tells."—Kenneth Klotz, Retired Administrator, Skidmore College, and Former Mayor, Saratoga Springs, New York

"What a triumph of research! What a contribution to regional history and the oft-neglected genre of slave narratives! The authors have done a stunning job of combing a wide variety of regional primary sources. More importantly, they have provided a thoroughly documented back story on a genuine American hero; his triumph over slavery and discrimination; and one of the most famous books of the 1850s. The research evident in this book is nearly as incredible as Solomon Northup’s own ordeal."—Preston E. Pierce, Regional Archivist, Rochester Regional Library Council, Adjunct Lecturer in History, Finger Lakes Community College

"Historians have found much useful information in Solomon Northup's memoir with its insights into the traumatic life of a free man kidnapped into slavery. The authors of this volume present an extensive and fascinating examination of Northup’s life particularly after he escaped, filling in the many gaps in his own telling. Their work will be of great interest to historians who study the experience of African Americans before emancipation." —Joel H. Silbey, Professor of American History Emeritus, Cornell University

"Fiske, Brown, and Seligman's Solomon Northup is the best current biography available. The facts they have uncovered are invaluable—the living descendants they have identified, precious." —Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research
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