Tag Archives: Free Blacks

Beyond 12 Years A Slave: The Early Black Press and the Kidnapping of Free Black Children by Kim Gallon

lOver the past few months, Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave has reinvigorated a public conversation about the history of slavery in the United States.   The film is probably the best cinematic representation of the complexity and brutality embedded in the  North American slave system.   The film recounts the real-life experiences of Solomon Northrup, a free Black man kidnapped into slavery for 12 years in 1841.    Prior to the film, many, if not most, Americans were unaware of the abduction of free African Americans in the North.  However, the kidnapping of free Blacks happened regularly enough that it posed a significant threat to the security of free Black communities, including ones in the South. According to Carol Wilson, free Blacks living in Pennsylvania, and Delaware, states bordering Maryland, faced the most danger. The proximity of these regions to the Mason-Dixon line facilitated kidnappers’ transportation of their victims to southern farms, plantations and urban centers.  1

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  1. Carol Wilson. Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1994, 10-11.