A Journey into Solomon’s Washington explores Solomon Northup’s legacy and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

On September 24, the Smithsonian will open its newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The day has also been proclaimed Solomon Northup Day in Washington D.C. by the Mayor in recognition of the 175 years after his enslavement. In light of these two events, The Solomon Northup Legacy (SNL) will present “A Journey Into Solomon’s Washington”. This 4-day event, organized by SNL’s Founding Director Melissa Howell, will assemble descendants as well as actors from the celebrated film based on Northup’s 1853 memoir “12 Years a Slave”. Between September 21 – 24, the group will retrace the footsteps on Northup while he was in Washington D.C. and then converge upon the Opening Dedication of the NMAAHC and his inclusion within the inaugural exhibits in “Taking the Stage” and “Slavery and Freedom” galleries.

Participating in the 4-day ‘Journey into Solomon’s Washington’ will be immediate Northup descendants Melissa Howell, Irene Northrup-Zahos (descendant), Rebecca Bicksler (descendant); special guests of the Oscar-winning Best Picture ’12 Years A Slave’; actress Kelsey Scott (Anne Northup) and actor Jay Huguley (Avoyelles Parish Sherriff); and descendant families of “Twelve Years A Slave” Jeffrey Smith (great-great-great grandson of Henry B. Northup), Anne Marie Barrios (great-great-great granddaughter of William P. Ford), and Liz Brazelton (great-great granddaughter of John P. Waddill, Esq.).

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The retracing will include:

  • a guided history of 19th century Washington by local and prominent historian and author Carroll R. Gibbs.
  • a visit to the working historic site of James Madison’s Montpelier where attendees can participate in the DIG expedition offering a hands-on experience excavating the artifacts and gaining a historical viewpoint of the last slaves who worked the property with reflection of Solomon’s labors.
  • a visit to the White House; a house built in 1792 by slave labor and worked by the slaves held by past sitting Presidents.

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The NMAAHC is one of the most anticipated 21st century explorations of the African American diaspora. This museum, along with the retracing of Solomon Northup’s journey, is a rare moment in the modern world to reflect, connect and reconcile America’s troubled past. Northup’s memoir is the only known recording by a native New York free-born citizen to be enslaved and rescued from the horrors of slavery. By celebrating freedom, family and forward momentum, attendees can explore a new understanding of America’s history and the rich legacy of those descended from enslaved peoples.

The Solomon Northup Legacy was founded in 2014 by direct descendant Melissa Howell. Its mission is to protect, preserve and perpetuate the living legacy of Solomon Northup and its enduring cultural relevance.  Its body of work includes a 2016 Recommendation of Solomon Northup for the Presidential Medal of Freedom supported by Congressman Paul Tonko, Congressman Tom Reed, Ambassador of Religious Freedom Suzan Cook Johnson and other esteemed supporters.

*Discover how others are changing the understanding of America’s legacy as Photojournalist Seamus Conlan discusses diversity in the exclusive for Vanichi.