The Life and Diary of John P. Waddill
The Lawyer who Freed Soloman Northup, 1813-1855
By Charles A. Riddle
The Life and Diary of John P. Waddill provides a rare view into the Antebellum South through the eyes of Solomon Northup’s lawyer, John P. Waddill. Born in 1813, John P. Waddill worked his family lands in Tennessee and then Louisiana before entering Augusta College in Kentucky. At Augusta, Waddill began keeping a daily diary, recording in detail thoughts, events, and conversations. Upon completing his education, he returned to the Red River Valley in Louisiana, settling in the burgeoning town of Marksville. There, Waddill became a successful attorney, politician, and family man. Like many well-off white southern gentlemen in the decades prior to the Civil War, he also bought both land and slaves to work it.
Though a slave owner himself, Waddill is known today as the lawyer of Solomon Northup, author of the classic memoir of freedom, captivity, and redemption, 12 Years a Slave. Through Samuel Bass, a mutual acquaintance of both Northup and Waddill, Northup secured Waddill’s aid in regaining his freedom in 1853. The daily recordings of John P. Waddill and the careful research of Charles Riddle give readers not only a detailed biography of this Marksville attorney, but a unique and important glimpse into the people and culture of the antebellum Deep South.
Softcover, 390 pp, ©2019
Release date: June 11, 2019