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Region of Peel - Working for you

Author of Twelve Years a Slave is Part of Peel's History


Visit PAMA to learn more about our connection to this Academy Award winning film

If you saw the film, Twelve Years a Slave, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014, you may be surprised to learn that the book's author – a free man enslaved in the United States – has a Peel connection.

Solomon Northup, the author of the book that was made into the movie, visited Streetsville in 1857. He was speaking out against slavery after being captured and then enslaved in Louisiana for twelve years.

Who was Solomon Northup?

Northup, who lived with his family in New York state, worked as a farmer and violinist. In 1841, he was tricked into travelling to Washington, D.C.  when he was told that he would perform at a concert. Instead, he was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Northup worked on several plantations in Louisiana. He finally met a Canadian who helped to get word to New York, where state law provided aid to free New York citizens who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. The Governor of New York and Northup's family and friends eventually regained his freedom on January 3, 1853. Northup wrote and published his memoir later that year.

What was Northup's Peel Connection?

Northup travelled in the northern United States and Canada, telling his story. In Peel, the local Abolitionists (anti-slavery activists) invited him to speak at the Toronto Township Hall on Church Street – the "Town Hall" house, which still stands today – in mid-August 1857. Unfortunately, the crowd was so unaccepting that he had to hide in a closet until his friends could safely rescue him.

There are many lessons to be learned from our community's history, even as we celebrate its diversity today. Learn more about The Black Community in Peel in the Late 19th Century and Black Enslavement in Upper Canada at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum & Archives (PAMA) exhibits, which run until February 28, 2018. Admission is FREE in August.

Visit for more information about PAMA. Follow PAMA on Twitter @visitpama

Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave.
New York: C.M. Saxton, 1859