It’s been 161 years since the New York Times first reported on the story of Solomon Northup, the free black man who was lured to Washington, D.C., kidnapped, and sold into slavery in Louisiana. However, thanks to an eagle-eyed Twitter user and the power of the Oscar wins for 12 Years A Slave, the Times is being forced to issue a correction to its original article, which is itself a priceless piece of history. Turns out, the New York Times misspelled Solomon Northup’s last name when telling his shocking story. Here’s the original article; they spelled Northup’s last name as Northrup in the title and Northrop in the body.
Here’s the full, amusing correction: An article on Jan. 20, 1853, recounting the story of Solomon Northup, whose memoir “12 Years a Slave” became a movie 160 years later that won the best picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, misspelled his surname as Northrop. And the headline misspelled it as Northrup. The errors came to light on Monday after a Twitter user pointed out the article in The Times archives. (The errors notwithstanding, The Times described the article as “a more complete and authentic record than has yet appeared.”)
I love how the correction is both contrite about the mistakes and self-important, pumping up its own grandiosity in spite of the mistakes by some long-dead copy editor. Still, to issue a correction to an article that’s older than the institution of cinema is really impressive. You have to admire their desire to get the historical record right, even if they can’t go back and change the actual article.
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