Solomon Northup Day

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The story of what happened to Solomon Northup in the Antebellum period of our country is of great national interest. It is an important part our regional history celebrating the triumph of the human spirit.

In July 1808 Solomon Northup, an accomplished violinist and inventor, was born a free man in Minerva, New York. Mr. Northup lived and worked in Saratoga Springs with his family for part of his life. He worked at the landmark Grand Union Hotel as well as other hotels as a cabbie and violinist. Solomon was abducted in 1841, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years.

Through the efforts of Canadian, Samuel Bass, both black and white citizens of Saratoga, Hudson Falls (Sandy Hill) and Louisiana were instrumental in restoring his freedom in 1853. A literate man, Mr. Northup published his autobiography, entitled Twelve Years a Slave, in 1853 (still in print and widely read).

Although Mr. Northup sought to bring his captors to trial, they were never prosecuted and he mysteriously disappeared. To date, his burial site has not been identified and it is not known whether or not he was killed, re-captured, or died of natural causes.

In 1999, in recognition of his life’s work, his ordeal and that of other African-Americans, native Saratogian, Renee Moore, founded “Solomon Northup Day – A Celebration of Freedom”. This historical and educational community event received recognition by the Library of Congress Bicentennial Local Legacies Project in 2000.

An historical marker was placed by the City of Saratoga Springs on Broadway at the side entrance of the Visitor Center marking the point of abduction. Northup descendants from four states have attended the event over the years including, matriarch Victoria Northup Linzy Dunham (a California resident) who lived to age 98.

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In 2002,the Saratoga Springs City Council proclaimed the third Saturday in July to be annually recognized as “Solomon Northup Day” and the “Celebration of Freedom” event was held at the Heritage Area Visitor Center every July through 2012.

The Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Museum recognized this event as part of the Jubilee traveling exhibition;  and in 2007,  the National Parks Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program  also recognized this project.  In 2013, the Solomon Northup Day celebration was moved to Skidmore College and is now presented by the Office of  Special Programs.

A note from Saratoga Springs resident and Skidmore graduate, Renee Moore, Founder of “Solomon Northup Day – A Celebration of Freedom:”

“The celebration of this day remains a way of ‘remembering’ so that we, as Americans don’t forget how far we have come and to encourage youth to speak-up for human freedom and justice.”