12 Years a Slave

by

Solomon Northrup

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on 12 Years a Slave can help.

12 Years a Slave Characters

Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup, the author and protagonist of the memoir, is born a free black man in New York, where, at the start of the story, he lives a pleasant life with his wife, Anneread analysis of Solomon Northup

Edwin Epps

Epps is Solomon’s third and most inhumane master, whom Solomon serves for ten years. Epps is married to Mistress Epps, and the two have at least two children, although only one, Young Masterread analysis of Edwin Epps

Bass

Bass is a kind-hearted white carpenter from Canada who works on a construction project for Edwin Epps. This makes it possible for him to befriend Solomon, as Solomon has skills in carpentry, and… read analysis of Bass

William Ford

Ford is Solomon’s first master, as well as Solomon’s only kind and compassionate master. Ford purchases Solomon (whom he knows only as Platt), along with a slave named Harry and another named Elizaread analysis of William Ford

John Tibeats

Tibeats is the carpenter who buys Solomon from William Ford when Ford runs into financial troubles. A sharp contrast from the warm and tender Ford, Tibeats is a cruel and erratic master, frequently trying to… read analysis of John Tibeats
Get the entire 12 Years a Slave LitChart as a printable PDF.
12 Years a Slave PDF

James Burch

Burch is a cruel slave dealer in Washington D.C. who oversees the Williams’ Slave Pen with help from his assistant, Ebenezer Radburn. Burch imprisons Solomon, Eliza, Randall, Emily, Clemens Rayread analysis of James Burch

Henry B. Northup

Henry B. Northup, a white lawyer, is a longtime acquaintance of Solomon and the grandnephew of the man who freed Solomon’s father from slavery. He hears about Solomon’s situation from Solomon’s wife, Anne, after… read analysis of Henry B. Northup

Patsey

Patsey is a twenty-three-year-old, beautiful slave girl belonging to Edwin Epps. She is raped by Epps regularly, making her the object of Mistress Epps’ jealousy and hatred and thus the recipient of even… read analysis of Patsey

Mistress Epps

Mistress Epps is the wife of Edwin Epps, and the mother of at least two children (though the only one who appears in the narrative is Young Master Epps). Although she is presented… read analysis of Mistress Epps

Theophilus Freeman

Theophilus Freeman is the cruel slave dealer in New Orleans who takes over Solomon, Eliza, and her children (among others) from his business partner, James Burch. He is inhumane and deeply insensitive… read analysis of Theophilus Freeman

Eliza Berry

Eliza, known to her owners as Dradey, is the mother of Randall and Emily. She was the slave-turned-mistress of a rich man who gave her a plush life and promised her eventual freedom. However… read analysis of Eliza Berry

Ebenezer Radburn

Radburn works with James Burch at the slave pen in Washington D.C., where Solomon first wakes up in chains after being drugged and kidnapped. Radburn’s attempts at sympathy for Solomon are flimsy, though he reinforces… read analysis of Ebenezer Radburn

Cephas Parker

Parker is one of Solomon’s old friends from New York. He is one of the men that Bass writes to in an attempt to rescue Solomon from slavery and restore him to freedom. Parker… read analysis of Cephas Parker

Emily Berry

Emily is Eliza’s young, beautiful daughter and Randall’s sister. She is likely the daughter of Eliza’s last owner. The cruel slave dealer, Theophilus Freeman, refuses to sell Emily, even when Ford offers… read analysis of Emily Berry

Arthur

Arthur is one of Solomon’s first friends at the very beginning of his time as a slave. While on the slave ship, Arthur, Robert, and Solomon make a plan for their escape off… read analysis of Arthur

Lew Cheney

Lew Cheney is the slave from a neighboring plantation who organizes a rebellion only to betray every person involved in the movement. He is rewarded for turning in the group, while all the other slaves… read analysis of Lew Cheney
Minor Characters
Merrill Brown
Brown is one of the two men (along with Abram Hamilton) who convince Solomon to travel with them from New York to Washington D.C. to take part in their circus. Brown and Hamilton betray Solomon by drugging him, beating him, stealing his free papers, and selling him into slavery.
Abram Hamilton
Hamilton, with help from his accomplice, Brown, convinces Solomon to travel from New York to Washington D.C. to play fiddle in the circus with which the men are connected. Once in Washington D.C., Hamilton and Brown drug Solomon, steal his free papers, and sell him into slavery.
William Perry
Perry, an old friend of Solomon, is one of the men that Bass writes to in order to rescue Solomon from slavery. Perry and his business partner, Cephas Parker, are able to forward the letter on to Solomon’s family, setting the ball in motion for Solomon’s rescue.
Armsby
Armsby is an impoverished white man who works for Edwin Epps. Armsby proves himself untrustworthy and deceitful when Solomon asks Armsby mail a letter for him, and Armsby agrees, feigning secrecy. Armsby immediately betrays Solomon by telling Epps.
Chapin
Chapin is the kind overseer at Ford’s Bayou Beouf plantation. He intervenes when John Tibeats and his accomplices try to hang Solomon.
John P. Waddill
Waddill is a Louisiana lawyer who helps his brother, Young Waddill, and Henry B. Northup find and rescue Solomon from slavery.
Young Waddill
Young Waddill, the brother of John P. Waddill, helps Henry B. Northup rescue Solomon from slavery.
Anne Northup
Anne is Solomon’s wife and the mother to Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. She is a hard worker and known as an excellent cook.
Elizabeth Northup
Elizabeth is the eldest child of Anne and Solomon’s three children. She is the sister of Margaret and Alonzo.
Margaret Northup
Margaret is the middle child of Anne and Solomon and later is the mother of Solomon Northup Staunton. She is the sister of Elizabeth and Alonzo.
Alonzo Northup
Alonzo is the son of Anne and Solomon, as well as the brother of Elizabeth and Margaret. Once he is old enough, he goes west in order to save enough money to purchase his father’s freedom.
Young Master Epps / Epps’ Son
Edwin Epps’ son is between the ages of ten and twelve. His behavior is violent and inhumane, just like that of his father. He sees slaves as nothing more than animals.
Randall Berry
Randall is Eliza Berry’s young son and Emily’s brother. He is quickly separated from the both of them but is too young to understand the gravity of his situation as a slave and his separation from his family. Eliza never sees him again.
Abram
Abram is one of Edwin Epps’ slaves. At sixty years old, Abram is a sweet, aging man who acts like a father to the other slaves. Epps treats him and a slave girl named Patsey with particular violence.
John Manning
Manning is the empathetic sailor that befriends Solomon aboard the ship headed for New Orleans. He risks his safety to help Solomon write and send a letter to Henry B. Northup.
Peter Tanner
Tanner is William Ford’s brother-in-law, whom John Tibeats hires Solomon out to. Like Ford, Tanner is a devout Christian, though he uses the Bible to support racism and scare his slaves.
Phebe
Phebe, also called Aunt Phebe, is one of the slaves that works in Edwin Epps’ home. She is married to Wiley and is the mother of Edward, Bob, and Henry. Phebe is a chatty woman, known for being a gossip and eavesdropping as she works in the house.
Wiley
Wiley, one of Edwin Epps’ slaves, is Phebe’s husband and Edward’s father. He is forty-eight years old and has a quiet, solemn temperament. Wiley tries to run away but is captured by white patrollers and returned to Epps three weeks later, earning Wiley violent punishment.
Robert
Robert is one of the slaves on the slave ship whom Solomon befriends. Robert, Solomon, and Arthur make a detailed plan for their escape off the ship, but the plan is never put into action because Robert falls sick with smallpox and dies.
Celeste
Celeste is a runaway slave from a plantation nearby that of Edwin Epps. She turns to Solomon for food, and he helps her stay alive for many months. She has fairer skin than her master.
Mistress Ford
Mistress Ford is William Ford’s gentle, kind wife whom Solomon loves and respects.
Clemens Ray
One of the slaves Solomon meets while imprisoned in Williams’ Slave Pen, overseen by James Burch.
Edward
The thirteen-year-old son of Wiley and Phebe who works in Edwin Epps’ household serving Epps’ children.
Bob
One of Edwin Epps’ slaves and Phebe’s twenty-year-old son from an earlier marriage.
Henry
One of Edwin Epps’ slaves and Phebe’s twenty-three-year-old son from an earlier marriage.
Harriet Shaw
A close friend of Patsey and the black wife of a dishonest white gambler.
Judge Marvin
One of the men to whom Bass writes a letter in an attempt to rescue Solomon from slavery.
Benjamin O. Shekels
A slave trader who acts as a false witness for Burch when Solomon brings Burch to court.
Benjamin A. Thorn
One of James Burch’s false witness when Solomon brings Burch to court.
John Williams
One of the slaves that Solomon meets while in Williams’ Slave Pen, overseen by James Burch.
Adam
A white man who works as a foreman for William Ford.
Judge Turner
A dignified man for whom Solomon briefly harvests sugar cane.
Mintus
Solomon’s father, who was born a slave but earned his freedom when his master died.
Goodin
The slave trader in Richmond, Virginia, whose complexion is as dark as his slaves’.
Rachel
One of Chapin’s slaves at Bayou Boeuf.
Eldret
The nice man that Solomon is hired out to by Tibeats to chop lumber.
Marshall
The murderous man who lives at a plantation near Epps, at one point challenging Epps to a duel. Marshall is well-respected for having killed another man, according to Solomon.
Solomon Northup Staunton
Margaret Northup’s son and Anne and Solomon’s grandson.