A victim of kidnapping, Solomon Northup spent twelve years in Rapides and Avoyelles Parishes, Louisiana enslaved on plantations. His abductors lured him from his home in Glen Falls, New York with the promise of work playing his violin in a traveling circus. They then drugged him and sold him at a Washington, D.C. slave auction to traders in New Orleans who sold him to a plantation owner in central Louisiana.
While building a house for his third master, Edwin Epps, Northup met Samuel Bass, a Canadian carpenter. Bass mailed a letter for Northup that alerted his friends and family of his whereabouts. Unlike most of the thousands of other free blacks that suffered the fate of kidnapping, Northup regained his freedom in a Marksville courthouse using the 1840 New York anti-kidnapping law, one of a larger group of statutes known as personal liberty laws.
Once back in New York, Northup worked with ghost writer David Wilson to publish his story, and Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853 became a widely read slave narrative found in newspapers' best seller's lists. In time, Northup faded into obscurity, but in 1968 Dr. Sue Eakin and Dr. Joseph Logsdon resurrected the narrative adding footnotes documenting Northup's life in the northernmost corner of Acadiana. Following the edited version, Eakin published The Solomon Northup Trail through Central Louisiana guide in 1985.
This trail included sites remembered by Northup in his narrative and substantiated by Eakin's research. Of the numerous people and places mentioned by Northup, Acadiana Historical highlights those places at which he labored for a significant amount of time or figured otherwise prominently in his published account. Because the people of south Rapides Parish were so intertwined with those of northern Avoyelles, sites outside of Acadiana are included. Northup named and described many of the enslaved he lived among as did conveyance records in the Avoyelles Courthouse, however, tracing the trail, little evidence of their arduous and impressive existence along the bayous is found. With new research and Acadiana Historical, Solomon Northup and his fellow slaves are remembered.
Download the PDF to have a map, all the points of interest and itinerary ideas for the Northup Trail Byway.