In 12 Years a Slave there are a couple of references to Master Ford's debt but it's very vague.

Is it as simple as he owes money to someone? If that's the case then wouldn't Solomon (who's already proved he can make the process more efficient and let's face it - only costs food) be more valuable to him than an overseer who he pays (and by all accounts does a bad job)?

Or is he in debt in some other way (he owes someone his life/a favour?)

1 Answer 1


The Debt that Mr Ford must 'be mindful of' is the debt owed to Freeman, the Slave Trader, for Northup himself.

In order to make his money back, he requires Solomon to work back the cost of his purchase through labour.

Mr Ford has to get Solomon off the plantation for his own safety, but must also acquire a reasonable price for him in order to recoup his loss. This is why he almost apologies when he says he has 'transferred his debt' (and thus ownership) to Mr Epps.

Epps is, unlike Ford, not sympathetic to Solomon, but explains he has no other option as "In truth I could find no other willing to take you..."

Dibbits, the oversee, has already been dismissed by the Plantation Master, who threatens him at gun point.

Ford is fearful of Dibbits return in order to extract vengeance against Solomon for costing him his job... this is why Ford carries his shotgun with him.

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