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Solomon Northup awoke in the middle of the night with his body trembling. Slowly, he realized that he was handcuffed in a dark room and his feet were chained to the floor. He managed to slip his hand into his pocket to look for his free papers that proved he was one of 400,000 free blacks in a nation where 2.5 million other African Americans were slaves. They were gone. This remarkable story follows Northup through his 12 years of bondage as a man kidnapped into slavery, enduring the hardships of slave life in Louisiana. But the tale also has a remarkable ending. Northup is rescued from his master's cotton plantation in the deep South by friends in New York. This is a compelling tale that looks into a little known slice of history, sure to rivet young readers and adults alike.
Solomon Northup awoke in the middle of an April night in 1841 with his body trembling, his head throbbing, and a terrifying question in his mind: Where was he? He slowly realized that he was in a dark, dank, foul-smelling dungeon in Washington, D.C. Worse yet, he was in handcuffs and his feet were chained to the floor.
As his head cleared, Solomon managed to slip a hand into his trousers pocket, where he had placed his money and his “free papers” for safekeeping. They were gone! He checked his other pockets and found no trace of the money or the papers that proved he was one of 400,000 “free blacks” in a nation where 2.5 million African Americans were slaves.
“There must have been some mistake,” Solomon told him- self. Any second now the two white men he had been traveling with would arrive to free him. But as the night wore on, he began to wonder whether these seemingly friendly men could have betrayed him.
The rising sun revealed that Solomon was in a cell with only one small window covered by thick iron bars. Soon he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. A key turned in a lock, the heavy iron door swung open, and two men entered the room where Solomon was chained.
“Well, my boy, how do you feel now?” asked one of the men, who Solomon later learned was named James Birch.
Solomon, who was 32 years old, wasn’t accustomed to being called “boy,” which was a demeaning way of addressing male slaves regardless of age. “What is the cause of my imprisonment?” Solomon demanded.