Solomon Northrup (aka cliff oliver) visits
berne knox westerlo middle school
On Monday, November 25, 2019 Solomon Northrup stopped at BKW and spoke to the middle school students about his life. Solomon was born in 1804 and was a free black man. He lived in Washington County and made his living as a carpenter and fiddle player. After being enticed to play his fiddle in New York City and Washington, DC, Solomon was kidnapped. Solomon repeatedly tried to tell his captors that he was a free man but was beat and whipped for his entreaties and sold into slavery. For 12 long years Solomon lived the harsh life of a slave in Louisiana. Finally Solomon was able to get word to his family in New York State. Henry B. Northrup, whose uncle had freed Solomon's father years earlier, helped to secure Solomon's release from slavery.
Solomon interacted with his middle school audience and talked about slavery of many oppressed people. Solomon mentioned the theme of fairness, a concept that his young audience could relate to. He was born a free man, but because of his skin color, could be kidnapped and sold as a slave.
Solomon's story was not told in isolation, but included the economics of slavery. Having people work for free made slavery appealing to people who were in the position to buy cheap slave labor. The invention of the cotton gin meant that the tedious job of removing the cotton seeds was done by machine and this meant that having more cotton pickers (slaves) made economic sense.
Solomon Northrup wrote about his years in bondage in his memoir entitled Twelve Years a Slave. Mr Cliff Oliver completed the picture of Solomon's life by filling in the details of his personal life before his kidnapping.
We thank Mr. Cliff Oliver for vividly bringing the story of Solomon Northrup to life.
This presentation was made possible by the Stewarts Shops Holiday Match Grant.
Memorabilia brought by Solomon:
Alphonse Northrup, Solomon's son.
Violin and photos.
Cotton balls fresh from the cotton field.
Solomon telling his life story to BKW Middle Schoolers.