You’ve Got to Read This 161-Year-Old ‘New York Times’ Article About ’12 Years a Slave’

History was made when 12 Years a Slave was crowned the Best Picture of 2013 at the Academy Awards. However, that saga began a full 173 years ago when the real Solomon Northrup, the subject of the film, was abducted and sold into slavery. The Times was on it.

An article published in the 1853 New York Times has been circulating online in the wake of 12 Years’ historic win. It is a must read. “THE KIDNAPPING CASE,” screams the article’s headline. “Narrative of the Seizure and Recovery of Solomon Northrup. Interesting Disclosures,” it continues.

The piece documents everything covered in Northrup’s autobiography and, subsequently, the film. There is his abduction:

While suffering with severe pain some persons came in, and, seeing the condition he was in, proposed to give him some medicine and did so. That is the last thing of which he had any recollection until he found himself chained to the floor of Williams’ slave pen in this City, and handcuffed.

The Times’ piece details the horrid conditions in which Edwin Eppes, the man who came to own Northrup, kept his slaves. It also goes on to document Northrup’s 12 year struggle for freedom. It’s not exactly an uplifting tale.

By the laws of Louisiana no man can be punished there for having sold Solomon into slavery wrongfully, because more than two years had elapsed since he was sold; and no recovery can be had for his services, because he was bought without the knowledge that he was a free citizen.

The article also introduces us to the girl who would inspire Patsey, the character who Lupita Nyong’o played in the film and to who Nyong’o dedicated her Oscar.

When Solomon was about to leave, under the care of Mr. Northrup, this girl came from behind her but, unseen by her master, and throwing her arms around the neck of Solomon congratulated him on his escape from slavery, and his return to his family, at the same time in language of despair exclaiming, “But, Oh, God! what will become of me?”

You can read the full article here.