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The Lawyer who Freed Soloman Northup, 1813-1855 

The Life and Diary of John P. Waddill

  • The Life and Diary of John P. Waddill provides a rare view into the Antebellum South through the eyes of Solomon Northrup s lawyer, John P. Waddill. Born in 1813, John P. Waddill worked his family lands in Tennessee and then Louisiana before entering Augusta College in Kentucky. At Augusta, Wadill began keeping a daily diary, recording in detail thoughts, events, and conversations. Upon completing his edu­cation, he returned to the Red River Valley in Louisiana, settling in the burgeoning town of Marksville. There, Waddill became a successful attorney, politician, and family man. Like many well-off white southern gentlemen in the decades prior to the Civil War, he also bought both land and slaves to work it. Though a slave owner himself, Waddill is known today as the lawyer of Solomon North­up, author of the classic memoir of freedom, captivity, and redemption, 12 Years a Slave. Through Samuel Bass, a mutual acquaintance of both Northup and Waddill, Northup secured Waddill s aid in regaining his freedom in 1853. The daily recordings of John P. Waddill and the careful research of Charles Riddle give readers not only a detailed biog­raphy of this Marksville attorney, but a unique and important glimpse into the people and culture of the antebellum Deep South.

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