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Freedom by Positive Proof: Two Tales of Sailors in the Old South

Inhumanity often hides behind the law.  It wraps itself in a comforting blanket of bland legal language, and hopes no one will notice it’s there.

The recent resurgence of Solomon Northup’s 1853 narrative Twelve Years a Slave, fueled by the release of the popular movie of the same name, has brought Americans once again face to face with the insidious qualities of “our peculiar institution.”  Born free in New York, Northup was lured south to Washington, DC, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in Louisiana.  He eventually regained his freedom after extraordinary measures, but after lengthy legal proceedings, he was unable to bring his kidnappers to account.  A black man could not testify against a white man in Washington, and the New York courts failed to prosecute them.

Perhaps his tale might be easier to bear if it were an isolated incident. And yet, his story is just the tip of a horrifying iceberg.  Thousands of free born men, women and children suffered the same fate in the four score years between the end of the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Two former members of Constitution’s crew faced the same ordeal, but their stories had even less satisfactory resolutions. Read the full story on Log Lines >>

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