Northup's only written work is his autobiography, Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup. A Citizen of New York, kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana (1853), Northup's slave narrative, the tale of a free African American man who is kidnapped, sold into slavery, and lives as a slave for 12 years, was not only a best seller for its genre and time; it was revolutionary.
Twelve Years a Slave is praised for its meticulous examination of slavery and plantation society, especially against the contrast to his previous life as a musician and citizen of New York. Northup's story has also has also been cited as representative of slavery's horrors and has been used to support the depictions in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Northup's narrative is valuable for the accurate description of his experiences and defines many of the slave experiences that are known. Also included: a study guide.