Lightweight and easy to steal, Solomon’s free papers symbolize his identity as a free black man; like his freedom, they proved flimsy and easy to take from him. Solomon’s arguments with the Washington D.C. slave dealer Burch reveal that Solomon’s thirty years of life as a free man of New York mean little now that he is in chains. Solomon’s claims to freedom hold no weight against the violently-reinforced power of white slave holders and slave traders, just as his papers held no weight, taken from his pockets and disposed of somewhere while he was drugged.
Free papers Quotes in 12 Years a Slave
The idea struck me as a prudent one, though I think it would scarcely have occurred to me, had they not proposed it […] I must confess, that the papers were scarcely worth the cost of obtaining them—the apprehension of danger to my personal safety never having suggested itself to me in the remotest manner.
Then did the idea begin to break upon my mind, at first dim and confused, that I had been kidnapped. There must have been some misapprehension—some unfortunate mistake. It could not be that a free citizen of New-York, who had wronged no man, nor violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly […] I felt there was no trust or mercy in unfeeling man.