Solomon Northup Quotes in 12 Years a Slave (2013)


Solomon Northup Quotes:

  • Solomon Northup: I don't want to survive. I want to live.

  • Solomon Northup: [Upon meeting his family again after 12 years] I apologize for my appearance. But I have had a difficult time these past several years.

  • Solomon Northup: I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!

  • Robert: I say we fight.

    Solomon Northup: The crew is fairly small. If it were well planned, I believe they could be strong armed.

    Clemens: Three can't stand against a whole crew. The rest here are niggers, born and bred slaves. Niggers ain't got the stomach for a fight, not a damn one.

    Robert: All I know, we get where we travelling we'll wish we'd died trying.

    Clemens: Survival is not about certain death, it is about keeping your head down.

    Solomon Northup: Days ago I was with my family, in my home. Now you tell me all is lost. "Tell no one who I really am" if I want to survive. I don't want to survive, I want to live.

  • Edwin Epps: [Having awakened Solomon in the middle of the night, Epps coaxes him outside, puts his arm around him as if consoling a friend, and guides him into the woods] Well, boy. I understand I've got a larned nigger that writes letters and tries to get white fellows to mail 'em. Well, Armsby tol' me today the devil was among my niggers. That I had one that needed close watchin' or he would run away. When I axed him why, he said you come over to him and waked him up in the middle of the night and wanted him to carry a letter to Marksville. What have yah got to say to that?

    Solomon Northup: There is no truth in it.

    Edwin Epps: You say.

    Solomon Northup: How could I write a letter without ink or paper? There is nobody I want to write to 'cause I hain't got no friends living as I know of. That Armsby is a lying drunken fellow. You know this, just as you know that I am constant in truth. Now, master, I can see what that Armsby is after, plain enough. Didn't he want you to hire him for an overseer? That's it. He wants to make you believe we're all going to run away and then he thinks you'll hire an overseer to watch us. He believes you are soft soap. He's given to such talk. I believe he's just made this story out of whole cloth, 'cause he wants to get a situation. It's all a lie, master, you may depend on't. It's all a lie.

    Edwin Epps: [reveals a pocket knife he'd had pressed against Solomon's gut the entire time] I'll be damned... Were he not free and white, Platt. Were he not free and white.

  • Solomon Northup: [Epps has just whipped Patsey within an inch of her life] Thou devil! Sooner or later, somewhere in the course of eternal justice thou shalt answer for this sin!

    Edwin Epps: No sin! There is no sin! A man does how he pleases with his property. At the moment, Platt, I am of great pleasure. You be goddamn careful I don't come to wantin' to lightenin' my mood no further.

  • Ford: I believe Tibeats is skulkin' about the premises somewhere. He wants you dead, and he will attempt to have you so. It's no longer safe for you here. And I don't believe you will remain passive if Tibeats attacks. I have transferred my debt to Edwin Epps. He will take charge of you.

    Solomon Northup: Master Ford, you must know; I am not a slave.

    Ford: I cannot hear that.

    Solomon Northup: Before I came to you I was a free man.

    Ford: I am trying to save your life! And... I have a debt to be mindful of. That, now, is to Edwin Epps. He is a hard man. Prides himself on being a "nigger breaker." But truthfully I could find no others who would have you. You've made a reputation of yourself. Whatever your circumstances, you are an exceptional nigger, Platt. I fear no good will come of it.

  • Solomon Northup: I did as instructed. If there's something wrong, it's wrong with the instructions!

    Tibeats: You black bastard. You... goddamn... black bastard. Strip your clothes.

    [shoving Solomon]

    Tibeats: Strip.

    Solomon Northup: I will not.

  • Burch: Yah a slave. Yah a Georgia slave!

    [savagely beats Solomon until his paddle breaks. He switches to a whip and continues]

    Burch: Are yah a slave?

    Solomon Northup: No.

  • Solomon Northup: We need a sympathetic ear. If we have an opportunity to explain our situation...

    Clemens: Who in your estimation is that sympathetic ear?

    Solomon Northup: The two men I journeyed with. I'm certain they're making inquires at this very moment.

    Clemens: I would be just as certain they are counting the money paid for delivering you to this place.

    Solomon Northup: They were not kidnappers. They were artists. Fellow performers.

    Clemens: You know that? You know for certain who they were?

    [Solomon cannot answer]

    Clemens: How I reckon the situation: whatever past we had... well, that's done now. The reality to come is us being transported southward. New Orleans if I were to venture. After we arrive, we'll be put to market. Beyond that... Well, once in a slave state I suppose there's only one outcome.

  • Freeman: Oren. John. Lethe. Eliza. Randall. Emily. Platt... Platt!

    [Solomon is the only one still seated. He does not respond; Freeman approaches him]

    Freeman: You fit the description given. Why didn't you answer when called?

    Solomon Northup: My name is not Platt. My name is...

    Freeman: [slaps Solomon hard across the face] Your name is Platt.

  • Hamilton: I'm afraid that Brown and I haven't brought you much luck. But rough waters bring smooth sailing. Eventually they do.

    Solomon Northup: So... so sorry...

    Hamilton: Shhh. We won't hear it. We won't.

    Brown: Let him sleep.

    Hamilton: Hmm. A good night's sleep. And tomorrow... tomorrow you will feel as well and refreshed as though the earth were new again.

    Brown: Hamilton! Nothing more we can do for him.

    Hamilton: Such is the pity.

  • Solomon Northup: [Solomon awakens Armsby in the middle of the night. He offers him a handful of coins] The proceeds of my fiddling performances. A few picayunes, but all I have in the world. I promise them to you if you will do me the favor I require. But I beg you not to expose me if you cannot grant the request.

    Armsby: What do you ask?

    Solomon Northup: First, your word, sir.

    Armsby: On my honor.

    Solomon Northup: It is a simple enough request. I ask only that you deposit a letter in the Marksville post office. And that you keep the action an inviolable secret forever. The details of the letter are of no consequence. Even at that, there would be an imposition of much pain and suffering were it known I was the author. A patron is what I require, sir.

    Armsby: Where is the letter now?

    Solomon Northup: It is not yet written. I will have it in a day. Two at most, my skill with composition as poor as it is.

    Armsby: I will do it. And will accept whatever payment is offered.

  • Radburn: [brings food in to Solomon; a shriveled piece of meat and some water. Just barely enough to sustain Solomon. Radburn also has a shirt] That old thing of yours is just rags and tatters. Need something proper to wear. Go'won. Put it on.

    [Solomon reluctantly does so]

    Radburn: There. Tha's fine. Tha's fine. Got no gratitude?

    Solomon Northup: ...Thank you.

    Radburn: Yah keep bein' proper, yah'll see how things work out.

    [takes Solomon's old shirt]

    Solomon Northup: No! It was from my wife.

    Radburn: Rags and tatters. Rags and tatters.

  • Burch: Well, my boy, how yah feel now?

    Solomon Northup: I am Solomon Northup. I am a free man; a resident of Saratoga, New York. The residence also of my wife and children who are equally free. I have papers. You have no right whatsoever to detain me...

    Burch: Yah not any...

    Solomon Northup: And I promise you - I promise - upon my liberation I will have satisfaction for this wrong.

    Burch: Resolve this. Produce your papers.

    [Solomon searches and finds no papers]

    Burch: Yah no free man. And yah ain't from Saratoga. Yah from Georgia. Yah ain't a free man. Yah nuthin' but a Georgia runaway. Yah a runaway nigger from Georgia.

  • Patroller: [in a vain attempt to escape, Solomon runs into some patrollers who are fixing to hang a trio of slaves] Boy, where are you going?

    Solomon Northup: To the store, Sir, to Bartholomew's. I was sent there by Mistress Epps.

    Patroller: [the patroller reaches out for Solomon's free pass around his neck, yanking him forward. He looks at it] Get there and get there quick.

    [Patroller kicks Solomon hard, sending him on his way]

Browse more character quotes from 12 Years a Slave (2013)