FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – It was a sad chapter in American history, a piece of which is tucked away in North Texas, next to memorabilia of much prouder moments for this country.
It is in the form of a yellowed, 171-year-old piece of paper – a slave manifest – that documented shackled slaves being herded onto a boat en route to New Orleans.
Among this list of humanity, down 33 spots, appears the name Plat Hamilton, an alias for Solomon Northup, a “black man born free” until he was kidnapped and held in captivity for 12 years.
Northup’s harrowing ordeal is now being played out in the highly acclaimed movie, ’12 Years a Slave’ which has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards.
Who knew a piece of Northup’s captivity rests in far south Fort Worth, in a temperature-controlled storeroom at the National Archives, not far from other remnants of this country’s history – letters from Abraham Lincoln and other presidents; heart-warming telegraphs from generals reminding soldiers to be kind to their mothers; thousands of military records.
“When I found the box, found the month and found the manifest, there it all was,” said Kris McIntosh, a retired schoolteacher and volunteer at the National Archives. “I was Christmas… I was five years old again and Santa had arrived.”
Other volunteers at the National Archives, including Myrtis Parker, also a retired schoolteacher, as well as a descendent of slaves, share that sort of passion.
“Maybe I might find my grandfather on here,” said Parker, as she carefully held the slave manifest.
There is a lot of history stored at the National Archives. But what makes Parker smile most are things such as the slave manifest, with names that never made it into the books she read in school, either as a student or during her 37 years as an educator.
“My personal opinion is that in this country, especially in the South, African-American history is still on the back burner …history that we don’t really want to deal with,” she said.
Despite her great interest and personal connection to 12 Years a Slave, Parker does not plan to see the movie, saying: “I am not emotionally able to sit and watch that brutality.”
If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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