“Twelve Years a Slave” Has Ties to Alexandria Home

The blockbuster "Twelve Years a Slave" is generating new interest in an Alexandria, Va. home for its connection to the story.

The movie documents the life of Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1858.

"One of the last owners of [the home] when it was a slave pen was actually the same person that sold Northup into slavery, and that was James Burch," Freedom House exhibit designer Julia Kiganda said.

Freedom House is located at 1315 Duke Street, once a hotbed of the slavery business in Alexandria during the early 1800s.

"Slavery permeated everything and the culture and society," Audrey P. Davis with the Alexandria Black History Museum said. "Even if you gained your freedom, there was a chance you would be enslaved again. I think that's what Northup's story tells us."

Some of the original bars, windows and chains remain. 

"Sometimes I feel the ghost of Northup," President of the Northern Virginia Urban league Cynthia Dinkins said. "[He's] not scary, but he's empowering people. Everything they did allows us to do what we do today."

Contact Us