New York Times prints '12 Years a Slave' story correction, 161 years later

The Gray Lady misspelled Solomon Northup back in 1853, and decided to make it right.
By Kate Stanton  |  March 4, 2014 at 7:56 PM
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NEW YORK, March 4 (UPI) -- The New York Times has decided to correct a 161-year-old spelling error.

The heartbreaking true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, served as the basis for his memoir 12 Years a Slave, which in turn inspired Sunday night's Best Picture Oscar winner.

The film's success prompted several social-media sleuths, including The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks writer Rebecca Skloot, to call attention to an 1853 Times' piece on Northup's life, which misspelled his name as "Northrop" and "Northrup."

The Times published this correction Tuesday:

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.”)

Skloot's book told the story of an African-American woman whose cancer cells became the first immortal cell line used to study everything from the polio vaccine to AIDs. Skloot told the Wall Street Journal that the Times' correction was important to her because she "spent more than a decade working on a book about a woman whose name was misspelled or changed."

"The historical significance is not because it was in the news, or part of this film. I would hope that had this been pointed out to them without the movie, they would have seen it as an important thing to correct," she said.


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