[BlackTree TV – New York] Shawn Edwards sits down with Steve McQueen’s “Go To Man”, actor Michael Fassbender who gives a moving performance in 12 Years a Slave.
Q: What became of Northup’s slave masters — William Prince Ford, Edwin Epps and Mistress Epps?
William Prince Ford was forced to sell Northup after he experienced financial difficulties The man he sold him to, John M. Tibaut (called Tibeats in Northup’s book and in the film) could not afford to pay Northup’s full value, so Ford was in a way still a part-owner. This is why Ford was able to prevent Tibaut from murdering Northup. Ford was a prominent Baptist minister, serving several congregations. One of them, the Springhill Baptist Church, expelled him for heresy, partly because he had allowed a Methodist to take communion at the church (an example of his generous spirit). Ford wore several other hats: in addition to operating the lumber mill where Northup worked, Ford manufactured bricks and mattresses.
The woman Ford was married to while Northup was his slave, Martha (Tanner) Ford passed away in 1849, and he got married a second time, to Mary Dawson. Rev. Ford passed away on August 23, 1866 and was buried in a cemetery known as the Old Cheney Cemetery in Cheneyville, Louisiana.
Edwin Epps had wanted to contest Northup’s removal from his possession, but his legal counsel advised him that the case was so clear-cut (due to documents presented in court in Marksville, Louisiana, which proved Northup had been born free), that he should simply give up Northup rather than incur pointless legal expenses, and he did so.
Epps gave up drink while Northup was still his slave, since Northup mentions that in his book. Epps continued working his plantation after Northup’s departure. The 1860 Federal Census shows that he had assets amounting to over $20,000.
During the Civil War some northern soldiers sought out the Epps plantation as the army worked its way through Louisiana. They found many people, both black and white, who remembered Northup and his fiddle-playing, and they even located Epps. What Northup wrote in his book, Epps told the
soldiers, was mostly true, and in a back-handed compliment to Northup he told them that he was an “unusually smart nigger.” Epps died on March 3, 1867. His place of burial is uncertain.
The house that Northup and carpenter Samuel Bass worked on for Epps still exists. It has avoided destruction several times, and has also been moved several times. It is now located on the campus of the Louisiana State University at Alexandria, and it has been declared a historic structure.
Mistress Epps, whose maiden name was Mary Robert, became the “Natural Tutrix” (or guardian) of her and her husband’s minor children following Epps’ death. However she died soon afterward. Many, if not all, of the children left Louisiana and relocated to various places in Texas.
Born in Germany, and raised in Killarney, Ireland, MICHAEL FASSBENDER (Edwin Epps) is a graduate of London’s prestigious Drama Centre. His breakthrough role came when he was cast in the epic Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks production, “Band of Brothers.” His big screen debut came with Zack Snyder’s hugely successful 300.
Fassbender’s performance as Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s HUNGER won large critical acclaim and, following the film’s Camera D’Or winning premiere at Cannes in 2008, Fassbender scooped up numerous international festival awards including the British Independent Film Award (BIFA) and Irish Film & Television Award (IFTA) for ‘Best Actor’; a London Film Critics Circle Award; and ‘Best Actor’ honours from the 2008 Stockholm and Chicago International Film Festivals. He was honoured at the latter festival the following year as ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for his performance in Andrea Arnold’s FISH TANK. The portrayal brought him BIFA and IFTA nominations as well as his second London Film Critics Award. He was also an IFTA nominee for his performance in Marc Munden’s miniseries “The Devil’s Whore.”