Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

The Solomon Northup memoir “Twelve Years A Slave” is a 1st person account of a free man of color from New York state being drugged, captured, sold into slavery in New Orleans, Louisiana and spending 12 years as a slave here in Rapides and Avoyelles Parishes, Louisiana.

The memoir ends with his telling of how he reacquired his freedom, aided by a man named Samuel Bass.  Bass was born in Canada but lived and died in Marksville, LA in Avoyelles Parish.  Bass died of pneumonia August 30, 1853 – age 46, while at the home of Justine Tournier (a free woman of color), only months after Solomon was freed.

The memoir was originally published in 1853 and is to be featured as a 2013 movie ‘Twelve Years a Slave” >>> official movie site.

After arriving in New Orleans Solomon was first sold to William Ford (of what is now Woodworth, LA), then after one year to John Tibaut and after another year to Edwin Epps, a planter from Avoyelles Parish.  Solomon was to spend the next 10 years on Epps’ plantation.

Epps’ plantation was located south of what is now Eola, Louisiana in the community of Holmesville, LA on Bayou Boeuf >>> google map. Before Epps’ house was moved in 1976 it faced south/southwest along Bayou Boeuf, just southeast of the Texas and Pacific railroad tracks near a clump of second growth trees, encompassed by a pecan orchard on three sides.

The Edwin Epps house is now located on the >>> campus of LSU at Alexandria, about 25 miles from its original location.  It is the only structure still standing in Louisiana directly associated with Northup’s account. Below I have posted some images of the house which Northup assisted in building.

Sue Eakin, a professor at LSUA, was instrumental in bringing Northup’s story to modern readers. Prior to Eakin’s finding of the book, on a dusty shelf in an old Louisiana Plantation home, the book had been lost to 20th century readers. Eakin soon learned the narrative could not be found in libraries, stores or catalogues.  It later became part of her life’s work which included the establishment of the >>> Northup Trail (scroll down page 86 of “Avoyelles: Crossroads of Louisiana Where All Cultures Meet” for Trail Information) in Louisiana, which follows points of interest in the story.

Additional Links:

Solomon Northup’s memoir “Twelve Years a Slave”

Summary of “Twelve Years a Slave” (I noticed a typo of “Great Pacoudrie Swamp” I think it should be Cocodrie Swamp, cocodrie means alligator and it is near Cocodrie Lake, south of Ford’s Plantation)

Historic Documentation on the Epps House

Sue Eakin interview in Country Roads

Bayou Boeuf History

Article from the New York Times 1853

Twelve Years a Slave, the movie at IMDB

Edwin and Mary Epps’ Burial Site – Fogleman Cemetery, Avoyelles Parish

Samuel Bass – genealogy information


Old Avoyelles Parish Courthouse


The old Avoyelles Parish Courthouse, no longer standing. Solomon Northup’s freedom order was signed at Marksville, parish of Avoyelles on the fourth day of January, 1853.


eppsHouseSide  eppsHouseInt

One thought on “Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

  1. Thanks for posting this interesting material and fascinating pictures relating to poor Solomon Northup. I thought that the recent film was intensely moving – and surprisingly close to Nortup’s own narrative.

    I was interested to see that Aristide Barbin, the Recorder of the parish of Avoyelles at the time, and so the man who drew up the document that set Northup free, came of an interesting family. According to this document – – his grandfather Nicholas Barbin was a private secretary to Louis XIV.

    This may perhaps have been a more distant ancestor: Aristide’s father – having died in 1831 at the age of 51 – would have been born in 1780, while Louis XIV died in 1715. So Nicholas would have needed to sire Aristide’s father at a very advanced age – 85 or more. From the dates in the same document Nicholas’ wife, whom he married in 1834, would have been at least in her mid-forties. Of course, it’s not impossible that Nicholas married a much younger wife.

    It was presumably another of Aristide’s relations who was the postmaster at Marksville (a Mr F. B. Barbin) at the time that Samuel Bass posted the letter that eventually reached Northup’s wife in September 1852.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>