Survivor Stories: Patsey
Solomon Northup was born a free Black man in New York in the mid 19th century, only be be kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep south.
In his memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, Northup wrote about a Black woman called Patsey, who he befriended after he was sold to Edwin Epps. Patsey endured severe abuse at the hands of Edwin and his family. She was repeatedly raped by Edwin and further abused by Edwin's wife, Mary, when she learned that Edwin was sexually abusing her.
Mary even attempted to bribe other workers to kill Patsey. Little is known about Patsey outside of Northup’s account, reflecting the scarcity of documentation and truth-telling of the rapes of Black women that still occur today.
In 2013, Northup’s narrative was adapted into an Oscar-winning film titled 12 Years a Slave, in which Patsey was portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o. Patsey’s story speaks to the stories of so many women who were enslaved and faced ongoing exploitation and brutalization from slaveholders and men on plantations.
Patsey’s story reflects a history of interracial sexual violence against Black women’s bodies in the context of forced breeding and mass rape.