Clippings: Northrup and Saratoga's black history

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12 Years a Slave spotlights Saratoga's black history
By Dennis Yusko
Updated 10:01 am, Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Copyright, 2014, Hearst Corporation

Saratoga Springs

Local residents who for years told the tragic but triumphant tale of a Saratoga violinist sold into slavery swelled with pride Monday after the story won Hollywood's top prize.

Director Steven McQueen's "12 Years a Slave," which follows the adult life of African-American Solomon Northup, was named best picture at the 86th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday. Northup worked in Saratoga Springs' large 19th-century hotels and lived downtown with his wife, Anne, and three children. In March 1841, two white men lured him off Broadway, drugged him and sold him as a slave.

Northup, then 33, labored for 12 years on Louisiana plantations before regaining his freedom with the help of Cephas Parker, a Saratoga Springs shopkeeper, and others. Northup returned to New York and authored an account of his years in bondage. The autobiography — "Twelve Years a Slave" — became perhaps the most detailed and realistic portrayal written on the institution of slavery.

Some in Saratoga Springs, however, feel Northup's adopted hometown never fully embraced his story as part of its history, even after the creation of an annual "Solomon Northup Day" celebration. Sunday's Oscar win could change that, Northup researchers said Monday.

"I feel like I'm finally on the team that won," said Johnnie Roberts, a city resident who for years publicized Northup's story in the city's visitors center. "I feel vindicated."

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