Born a free man in New York State in 1808, Solomon Northup was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841. He spent the next twelve years as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. During this time he was frequently abused and often afraid for his life. After regaining his freedom in 1853, Northup published this gripping account of his captivity. As an educated man, Northup was able to present an exceptionally detailed description of slave life and plantation society. Indeed, this book is probably the fullest, most realistic picture of the ‘peculiar institution’ during the three decades before the Civil War. Northup tells his story both from the viewpoint of an outsider, who had experienced thirty years of freedom and dignity in the United States before his capture, and as a slave, reduced to total bondage and submission. Very few personal accounts of American slavery were written by slaves with a similar history. This extraordinary slave narrative, new to Penguin Classics, has a new introduction by prize-winning historian and author Ira Berlin, an an essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr.