"Twelve Years A Slave" by Solomon Northup

About the Project

Solomon Northup (1808–1875), was born free in Saratoga Springs, New York around 1808. Northup was a farmer and professional violinist who traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1841 for a traveling musician’s job. While in Washington, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Northup was enslaved in several Louisiana plantations but was able to contact his family. His family enlisted the help of many, including the New York governor, to free Northup. At the time, New York State had a law in place that provided aid to New York citizens who had been kidnapped into slavery. After 12 years of enslavement, Northup was freed in January 1853. Later that year, Northup wrote and published his memoir, Twelve Years A Slave. Northup was more fortunate than many to gain his freedom and became active in the abolition movement and aided in the efforts of the Underground Railroad. This copy is a first edition, noted as the Seventeenth Thousand published copy in 1853. Help us transcribe this rare example of a firsthand account of an enslaved man that gripped the nation and became a rallying call for abolition.

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(2 out of 5)

Level 1 --- BEGINNER

Content: all typed
Language: English
Format: letters, diaries, flyers, pamphlets, and one-page documents
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: none required

Level 2

Content: mostly typed, handwritten in print, or otherwise very clearly written/readable
Language: English
Format: memorabilia, advertisements, image captions, telegrams, diaries, letters, notes
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: none required


Content: typed and handwritten materials in cursive or print
Language: English
Format: newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, letters/diaries/notes that may include annotations or margin notes
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: experience reading cursive writing may be useful

Level 4

Content: handwritten materials, primarily in cursive or somewhat difficult to read (predominantly from the 19th and 20th centuries) , audio recordings that are relatively easy to hear/decipher, and scientific materials
Language: English and/or other languages that use Roman script but may require the use of diacritics (French, Spanish, German, Italian, etc.)
Format: audio recordings, letters, diaries, notes and other written materials, projects with templated fields and special instructions
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: some knowledge of non-English Roman-character/script languages and diacritics may be useful, as well as experience reading cursive handwriting. A general knowledge or familiarity with scientific terminology.

Level 5 --- ADVANCED

Content: handwritten materials in cursive (from the 19th century or earlier) or in a non-Roman script language, audio recordings that are difficult to hear or are not in English, specialty materials/projects such as numismatics projects and the Project Phaedra notebooks 
Language: foreign languages that use non-Roman characters (Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek/Cyrillic, Native American and Indigenous languages, etc.) and English 
Format: audio recordings, columned data/tables, manuscripts, letters, diaries, notes, currency sheets, coins
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: knowledge of a specific language and access to a keyboard with the characters in that language may be required for certain projects. Experience reading cursive handwriting and familiarity with 19th century (or prior) handwriting and conventions/abbreviations may be useful, as well as knowledge of scientific terminology, astrophysics data, or linguistics.

Project Progress (details)
362pages completed





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