Published in 1861, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" was one of the first personal narratives by a slave and one of the few written by a woman. Jacobs (1813-97) was a slave in North Carolina and suffered terribly, along with her family, at the hands of a ruthless owner. She made several failed attempts to escape before successfully making ...
Published in 1861, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" was one of the first personal narratives by a slave and one of the few written by a woman. Jacobs (1813-97) was a slave in North Carolina and suffered terribly, along with her family, at the hands of a ruthless owner. She made several failed attempts to escape before successfully making her way North, though it took years of hiding and slow progress. Eventually, she was reunited with her children. For all biography and history collections. "Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women," Harriet Jacobs wrote in 1861. At that time she was an escaped slave living in the north, but the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 meant that she could no longer consider being in the northern states a guarantee of freedom or safety. Her book is an eloquent recital of the suffering that is slavery. Families broken apart; promises of freedom made but never kept; whippings, beatings, and burnings; masters selling their own children - all are recounted with precise detail and a blazing indignation. Harriet Jacobs' master started pursuing her when she was fifteen; in disgust she continually refused and avoided him. Her first attempt at revenge and escape failed: she became the lover of a local unmarried white man and had several children, but even then her master refused to sell her. Finally, in desperation, she ran away and hid in an uninsulated garret, three feet high at its tallest point with almost no air or light. She stayed there for seven years, enduring cold, heat, and a crippling lack of movement, always hoping to catch a glimpse of her children through a crack in the walls as they walked by on the road below her. At last she had a chance to escape to the North. Her story is a remarkable testimony to her strength and courage, and an unrelenting attack upon the institution of slavery.
My mother read this before I did and we both enjoyed the book.
Aug 11, 2011
Best I've Read
This is the very best insight into the life of a slave I have ever read, by male or female. Written pre-Civil War, Harriet Jacobs gives the view of the terrible dynamics of a slave girl entering womanhood at only 12 years old -- and the horrible consequences of the "respected community medical doctor" who wickedly controls her life, and his wife who hates her for simply living and thus being a feminine target of her husband. She gives descri\ptions of the very rough lives of other slaves on nearby plantations. A very engrossing read. I gave my copy to my good friend going back to Africa, who is interested in the history of African Americans. A definite recommendation.
Sep 6, 2009
She's amazing. We all know that slavery was an awful abomination, but hearing this firsthand account knocked the wind from me. I was stunned and deeply moved.
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