The Academy Awards was an epic night for “12 Years A Slave.” The emotional film, based on Solomon Northup’s story as a slave then a free man, snagged the “Best Picture” award at the end of the night and co-star Lupita Nyong’o snagged a “Best Supporting Actress” award, but the real lesson in the win is that it wouldn’t have happened without the real Solomon Northup sharing his story.
Northup published an account of his experiences in the book “Twelve Years a Slave,” during his first year of freedom in 1853. Following the story’s big win at the Oscars, The New York Times dug into their archives and posted a copy of an original profile from their Jan. 20, 1853 issue about Northup, a pianist from upstate New York who was kidnapped as a free man in 1841 and sold into slavery. From the film, we at least thought we felt his painful story, but the Times article was vivid in detail about the kidnapping and Northup’s lashings.
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. In the course of a few hours, James H. Burch, a slave dealer, came in, and the colored man asked him to take the irons off from him, and wanted to know why they were put on. Burch told him it was none of his business. The colored man said he was free and told where he was born. Burch called in a man by the name of Ebenezer Rodbury, and they two stripped the man and laid him across a bench, Rodbury holding him down by his wrists. Burch whipped him with a paddle until he broke that, and then with a cat-o’-nine-tails, giving him a hundred lashes, and he swore he would kill him if he ever stated to anyone that he was a free man.
The article went further in discussing the case and mentioned the 1853 trial against Burch and Rodbury. Considering the era, Northup couldn’t take the stand since Black witnesses weren’t allowed to testify against White defendants. As for the plantation owners, who knew of Northup’s captivity, they were protected from arraignment.
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.
Aside from Northup’s case, the article mentioned a “girl,” which we now know was Patsey (the character Lupita played in the film) who witnessed his escape.
“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?'”
Although Northup was freed without seeing justice served, the Northup family continues his legacy. Northup’s great grandchildren filmed a featurette for Fox Searchlight, “The Faces of Solomon Northup,” shortly after the film was released.
1. 2014 Academy Awards: Best & Worst Dressed
Celebs have arrived at the Hollywood & Highland Center for Hollywood's biggest night! See which stars shut down the 2014 Academy Awards and who should've thought twice before stepping out. Our favorite starlets called on the best of the best to parade down the red carpet tonight. Check out who rocked the red carpet, and who should have hired (or fired) a stylist.
2. Lupita Nyong'o
BEST. Lupita has spent awards season dazzling us with her colorful frocks and she didn't disappoint at the Oscars when she floated down the red carpet in a plunging Prada gown. “It’s a blue that reminds me of Nairobi. It’s a little bit of home," The "Best Supporting Actress" nominee said of her custom-made dress.
3. Lupita Nyong'o
The actress looked every bit a princess accessorizing her ice blue gown with Fred Leighton jewels, including an 18kt gold and diamond headband.
4. Alfre Woodard
BEST! Woodard (and her girls) slayed in this age appropriate-yet-sexy embellished dress. We love the darker color.
5. Lupita Nyong'o & Alfre Woodard
BEST! Brown beauties rocking beautiful shades of blue, we're here for it!
6. Kerry Washington
BEST! Mommy-to-be Kerry Washington showed off a little leg in a strapless Jason Wu gown that draped over her baby bump, and looked amazing!
7. Kerry Washington
A vampy plum lip that brought out the color of the gown and tousled hair *really* makes Kerry look like a haute mama.
8. Pharrell Williams & Helen Lasichanh
WORST. We're glad Pharrell lost the over-sized hat for the red carpet, but where are the rest of his pants? Sure the suit is Lanvin but that is no excuse. We think he and his wife Helen switched ensembles.
9. Michael B. Jordan
BEST! "Fruitvale Station" star Micheal B. Jordan is one of the presenters of the night and looks very dapper in his luxurious Givenchy suit, styled by Jeff Kim.
10. Michael B. Jordan
On anyone else we might be undecided on this star collar from the Gentleman Collection by David Thomas Style X JBH, but Michael "Bae" pulls it off!
11. Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith
BEST! Jada gets all the applause for stunting in this flowing peach creation. While Will could've rocked a tie to match his wife's dressiness we're not mad at his relaxed suiting look. Clearly, they've been here before.
12. Viola Davis
UNDECIDED. Green is a good look on Viola (the actress wore the same hue last year when she was nominated for Best Actress in 2012) but we're not loving the fit on this Escada gown that hugs so tightly to her midsection. She also could've lost one of those cuffs so there wasn't so much going on with the gold clutch.
13. John Legend & Chrissy Teigen
BEST! Now this is a couple who knows how to work the red carpet. John Legend will perform some of the music he created for "12 Years A Slave" and the singer came dressed to win in a Versace suit and bow tie. His wife, "Sports Illustrated" model Chrissy Teigen, brought the sexy in a splashy Monique Lhuillier gown.
14. Chiwetel Ejiofor & Sari Mercer
BEST! The British Best Actor nominee looked dapper in a tux while his girlfriend wore a regal blue.
15. Robin Roberts
BEST! Roberts glowed in a jewel embellished Dennis Basso gown and Stuart Weitzman shoes.
16. Steve McQueen
BEST! The "12 Years A Slave" director kept it classic in a tux and bow -tie, with his signature glasses.
17. Faysal Ahmed & Barkhad Abdi
BEST! The "Captain Phillips" co-stars got dapper in tuxes.
18. Michael Strahan
WORST. Kudos to the TV host for trying to step outside of the box with his suiting, but the maroon color and black piping on his suit just look dated.
19. Rocsi Diaz
BEST! We are loving Rocsi's glamorous and sparkly steez!
20. Tyson Beckford
BEST! Tyson will show off his dapper look tonight as one of the hosts for the ABC Red Carpet special.
21. John Ridley & Gayle Ridley
UNDECIDED. We're into the "12 Years A Slave" writer's modern suit and his wife had us with the purple gown...until the curtain-like bottom.