Middlebury College’s Connection to 12 Years a Slave

henry_bliss_northupLast Sunday the film 12 Years a Slave, based on a memoir by Solomon Northup, was selected as Best Picture of 2013 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the movie, a shopkeeper from Solomon Northup’s home town rescued him from bondage in Louisiana. But in the book, Northup was rescued from bondage by Henry Bliss Northup, a prominent Vermont attorney who was a member of the Class of 1829 at Middlebury College.  The two men shared the same last name because in the late 1700s, relatives of Henry Bliss Northup had owned slaves who took the last name of their master. Solomon Northup, who was born a free man in New York, was a descendant of those slaves.

Middlebury College recently received a donation of two portraits of Henry Bliss Northup and his wife Electa Taylor Northup. The portraits were probably painted by Ezra Ames a popular artist in the early 19th century. The college is currently having the paintings restored before they become part of the Middlebury’s permanent art collection.

Related Articles


  1. I think it would be very good idea for Middlebury College to provide 50 fully paid four year scholarships each year to high achieving African American high school students who come from low and middle income backgrounds.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Fielding Graduate University Honors Ronald Mason for Lifetime Achievements in HBCU Leadership

Ronald Mason has served as president of three HBCUs: Jackson State University, Southern University and A&M College, and the University of the District of Columbia, where he was the longest tenured president in the university's history.

Tuskegee Partners with UTHealth Houston for Accelerated Graduate Program in Biomedical Informatics

Tuskegee University has partnered with UTHealth to provide students with an accelerated graduate degree in biomedical informations. The "4+1" program will allow students to potentially earn a bachelor's degree, graduate certificate, and master's degree in just five years.

Eight African Americans Selected for Administrative Roles in Higher Education

Here is this week’s roundup of African Americans who have been appointed to new administrative positions at colleges and universities throughout the United States. If you have news for our appointments section, please email the information to contact@jbhe.com.

Recent Books of Interest to African American Scholars

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education regularly publishes a list of new books that may be of interest to our readers. The books included are on a wide variety of subjects and present many different points of view.

Featured Jobs