The National Archives at Fort Worth

Slave Manifest of Solomon Northup

This item is a Slave Manifest listing Solomon Northup, the primary author of Twelve Years a Slave. The Constitution of the United States outlawed the importation of enslaved peoples into the country in 1808. The domestic slave trade, however, remained legal. With the rise of cotton as a southern commodity, thousands of enslaved people were shipped from the upper south to the lower south regularly from 1808 to 1860. Slave manifests were required by law for each ship transporting enslaved individuals and included the name, sex, height, and complexion or class of each enslaved individual. In addition, slave manifests required the names of the enslavers or shippers of enslaved people and their residence, plus the names of the individuals the enslaved were consigned to if necessary.

This manifest for the Brig Orleans documents 41 enslaved individuals who were shipped to New Orleans, LA, from Richmond, VA, in the spring of 1841. Among them was Solomon Northup, who was listed as Plat Hamilton on line 33. A free Black man in New York, Northup had been kidnapped and sold into slavery; he was given the name Plat Hamilton aboard the ship. Years later, after he regained his freedom, he told his life story in his autobiography Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841 and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River in Louisiana. Northup’s story was made into a major motion picture and won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014. Additional slave manifests from New Orleans can be found in the National Archives Catalog. 

refer to caption

Slave Manifest of Solomon Northup, dated 1841. National Archives Identifier:7456569

View and download the Manifest for the Brig Orleans on the National Archives Catalog. You can explore more of our holdings by visiting our online Catalog or by visiting the National Archives at Fort Worth. This record is located within Record Group 36: Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Series: Slave Manifests, 1817–1861. Many of the records in this collection have yet to be digitized. We encourage researchers to visit us onsite to explore these records and learn more about the archival collections held in the National Archives at Fort Worth.