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INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL: A Painful Memoir That Uncovered the Despicable Sexual, Emotional & Psychological Abuse of a Slave Women, Her Determination ... as Well as Her Sacrifices in the Process

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"Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" was one of the first books to address the struggle for freedom by female slaves; explore their struggles with sexual harassment and abuse; and their effort to protect their roles as women and mothers. After being overshadowed by the Civil War, the novel was rediscovered in the late 20th century and since then hasn't been out of print "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" was one of the first books to address the struggle for freedom by female slaves; explore their struggles with sexual harassment and abuse; and their effort to protect their roles as women and mothers. After being overshadowed by the Civil War, the novel was rediscovered in the late 20th century and since then hasn't been out of print ever. It is one of the seminal books written on the theme of slavery from a woman's point of view and appreciated worldwide academically as well. Excerpt: "Reader be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my descriptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the names of places, and given persons fictitious names. I had no motive for secrecy on my own account, but I deemed it kind and considerate towards others to pursue this course...." Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) was an African-American writer who was formerly a fugitive slave. To save her family and her own identity from being found out, she used the pseudonym of Linda Brent and wrote secretly during the night.


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"Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" was one of the first books to address the struggle for freedom by female slaves; explore their struggles with sexual harassment and abuse; and their effort to protect their roles as women and mothers. After being overshadowed by the Civil War, the novel was rediscovered in the late 20th century and since then hasn't been out of print "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" was one of the first books to address the struggle for freedom by female slaves; explore their struggles with sexual harassment and abuse; and their effort to protect their roles as women and mothers. After being overshadowed by the Civil War, the novel was rediscovered in the late 20th century and since then hasn't been out of print ever. It is one of the seminal books written on the theme of slavery from a woman's point of view and appreciated worldwide academically as well. Excerpt: "Reader be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my descriptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the names of places, and given persons fictitious names. I had no motive for secrecy on my own account, but I deemed it kind and considerate towards others to pursue this course...." Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) was an African-American writer who was formerly a fugitive slave. To save her family and her own identity from being found out, she used the pseudonym of Linda Brent and wrote secretly during the night.

30 review for INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL: A Painful Memoir That Uncovered the Despicable Sexual, Emotional & Psychological Abuse of a Slave Women, Her Determination ... as Well as Her Sacrifices in the Process

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    Harriet Jacobs book is quite a nuanced account of slavery from the point of view of one who is not physically abused. This does not make slavery any better, being owned and used and having no free will cannot ever be anything but terrible, but it was less painful. For most slave owners slaves were extremely expensive farm animals and only the richest who could afford 'herds' of them would be able to maltreat them on a continual basis. If you want hard work from your oxen, and you want to breed Harriet Jacobs book is quite a nuanced account of slavery from the point of view of one who is not physically abused. This does not make slavery any better, being owned and used and having no free will cannot ever be anything but terrible, but it was less painful. For most slave owners slaves were extremely expensive farm animals and only the richest who could afford 'herds' of them would be able to maltreat them on a continual basis. If you want hard work from your oxen, and you want to breed from your cows, they have to be kept healthy and in good condition. Well fed, rested, and with down-time. Not a life of ease or quality, not one without the whip, but one designed that the animals will do their job dawn to dusk and breed on a regular basis. So it was with slaves. However there is a line in a book Caribbean Slave Society and Economy: A Student Reader by Beckles and Shepherd that says, "Within one year of the free market being established in Kingston, it was run by slaves much to everyone's satisfaction." What does that say? It says quite a few things. It says that the slaves had time and plots of land big enough to grow produce more than sufficient for their needs and of a high quality. It says that (some) slave masters allowed slaves time to go to market and sell their produce once a week which is allowing entrepreneurship. It says that the slaves were well-organised and commercially savvy. It says they had good customer service skills. What it says most of all was that Slaves were all victimised but not all became victims. And that is why there are so many successful Black islands in the Caribbean. But this is not to blame those were victims. It must have been very hard to have the strength of mind and character not to be when one is owned, beaten and treated far worse than the family dog. The best book I could recommend on slaves not being victims is Marlon James' The Book of Night Women. A very enjoyable and instructive book that will have you cheering and rooting for some characters that do some very evil things. You might have to listen to it rather than read it though as it is almost all in Jamaican dialect. Read Jan 2013, reviewed Aug 2016.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    A remarkable and vivid autobiography that details the life of Harriet Jacobs as a slave in North Carolina in the mid 1800s. My Master had power and law on his side. I had a determined will. There is might in each. Quote from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl This should be required reading in YA and history students in schools as it is documents the author’s life as a slave and her fight for freedom for herself and her children. An account in which female slaves are subjected to sexual A remarkable and vivid autobiography that details the life of Harriet Jacobs as a slave in North Carolina in the mid 1800s. My Master had power and law on his side. I had a determined will. There is might in each. Quote from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl This should be required reading in YA and history students in schools as it is documents the author’s life as a slave and her fight for freedom for herself and her children. An account in which female slaves are subjected to sexual abuse, the sale of their siblings and children, a life of torture, mental and physical cruelty with little hope of freedom, or even inner peace. These types of books make me angry and frustrated and certainly don't make for pleasant reading and yet we NEED to read these books to inform, and educate us and most of all so we never forget the pain and injustice that was inflicted upon our fellow humans in the not so distant past. I happened to listen to this one on Audible and the narration was quite poor and I really would not recommend it as a book of this importance deserves a narrator that can tell the story with clarity and without a forced southern drawl. I am so glad I came across this book as I have read quite a few historical fiction novels on slavery but this was an eye opener and certainly a book I will remember a long time from now.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This book was first published in 1861 and reprinted in the 1970s. Scholars initially doubted it was written by a slave. Thankfully, Harvard University Press authenticated and published findings of the 1980s, and Jean Fagan Yellin, Harriet Jacobs' biographer, dug up proof of the authenticity of this autobiography through letters and documents. I only regret not having the 1987 Harvard University Press edition edited by Yellin. Jacobs seemed to anticipate the doubting Thomas, even as she wrote: I This book was first published in 1861 and reprinted in the 1970s. Scholars initially doubted it was written by a slave. Thankfully, Harvard University Press authenticated and published findings of the 1980s, and Jean Fagan Yellin, Harriet Jacobs' biographer, dug up proof of the authenticity of this autobiography through letters and documents. I only regret not having the 1987 Harvard University Press edition edited by Yellin. Jacobs seemed to anticipate the doubting Thomas, even as she wrote: I hardly expect that the reader will credit me, when I affirm that I lived in that little dismal hole, almost deprived of light and air, and with no space to move my limbs, for nearly seven years. But it is a fact; and to me a sad one, even now; for my body still suffers from the effects of that long imprisonment, to say nothing of my soul. Members of my family, now living in New York and Boston, can testify to the truth of what I say. Why the disbelief?Jacobs wrote under the pseudonym: Linda Brent, changing the names of the abolitionists and slave owners who had helped her. Legitimate reason for doubt. Jacobs' reason for changing the names, also understandable. Here's where it gets preposterous: Jacobs' prose was being compared to the male slave narratives. Instead of being in chronological order (hooray for the avid readers of contemporary creative nonfiction who find this cliche), hers was told according to vivid incidents in her life. Hint: the title. In addition, she seemed like the heroine of a romance novel, scholars said. It was just so unfathomable, that this woman, this slave, could have been chased in such a manner, by an obsessive slave master whose wife mistreated her because she was so insanely jealous of her. Why hide in such a place that resembled a coffin, for so many years, just because your master wanted you as his concubine? It all seemed unbelievable. Yet it wasn't. Jacobs' life was different than most. She was raised by a kind slave owner who educated her, gave her grandmother her freedom, and yet died before Harriet could get her freedom. She was of mixed race and had a father who also died before buying her freedom. She was never beaten, never saw hard labor, and raised with a keen understanding of the world: I was never cruelly overworked; I was never lacerated with the whip from head to foot…I never had my heel-strings cut to prevent my running away; I was never chained to a log and forced to drag it about, while I toiled in the fields…" When she ran away, this was the posting made by her slave owner: An intelligent, bright, mulatto girl…dark eyes, and black hair inclined to curl; but it can be made straight. Has a decayed spot on a front tooth. She can read and write. This is the second time I've read this account, but the first time I've captured it in its entirety. Slavery is something that never ceases to baffle me. How could my ancestors have been treated so cruelly, like mere animals, yet trusted with the food and babies of their "owners?" How could they have been viewed "unfit" as humans, yet fit enough to breastfeed their "masters' " infants? Reading this, I paused to consider the many black mothers who raised white families, because when you really consider the intimacy of breastfeeding, you know that black slave mothers were giving white babies the same nutrients from their body that they gave their black babies. They weren't good enough to eat from their "masters' tables, yet good enough to stick a nipple in their "masters'"mouths. The hypocrisy and irony. Speaking of intimacy, think of the act of someone leaving his "slave's" sex bed and entering his wife's sex bed. In the end, women as a unit, became the victimized. This is what Jacobs seems to imply here, with her themes of women as sex objects, and women as slaves who treated each other as slaves; the black woman and the victimized white woman as her "master." Most times you only hear about the crazed sexual acts but in this book, you see that at times, slave owners were in love with, and obsessed with their female slaves, even sometimes arranging for them to occupy the vacation homes away from the wives. What Jacobs does in this narrative is speak directly to the issues of women during slavery, (the wife, lover, and child) something that had not been done in previous narratives. This narrative also highlighted something important for me: The Fugitive Slave Act. Imagine a life of always being on the run from the law, just because you were demanding your freedom. Previously, slaves could always escape to the North and find refuge. With this act, their southern slave owners could go up north and seize them while they walked to church with their family. What an emotional roller coaster: Many a wife discovered a secret she had never known before--that her husband was a fugitive and must leave her to insure his own safety. Worse still, many a husband discovered that his wife had fled from slavery years ago, and as "the child follows the condition of its mother," the children of his love were liable to be seized and carried into slavery. I learned about the Fugitive Act in history classes but never truly grasped the meaning of it until reading this book. I'm just glad that for Black History Month, I could revisit this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samadrita

    A human being sold in the free city of New York! The bill of sale is on record, and future generations will learn from it that women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in the United States. Once upon a time in America, not too long ago, fellow human beings had to go to extraordinary lengths to secure ownership of their own A human being sold in the free city of New York! The bill of sale is on record, and future generations will learn from it that women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in the United States. Once upon a time in America, not too long ago, fellow human beings had to go to extraordinary lengths to secure ownership of their own bodies and that of their children. Never forget.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nicole~

    Reader, it is not to awaken sympathy for myself that I am telling you truthfully what I suffered in slavery. I do it to kindle the flame of compassion in your heart for my sisters who are still in bondage, suffering as I once suffered. In the pre-civil war period of 1861, Harriet Jacobs was the only black woman in the United States to have authored her own slave narrative, in a call to "arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the Reader, it is not to awaken sympathy for myself that I am telling you truthfully what I suffered in slavery. I do it to kindle the flame of compassion in your heart for my sisters who are still in bondage, suffering as I once suffered. In the pre-civil war period of 1861, Harriet Jacobs was the only black woman in the United States to have authored her own slave narrative, in a call to "arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South...to convince the people of the Free States what slavery really is." Jacobs hoped that, should the white women of the North know the true conditions of the slave women of the South, they would not fail to answer the call to moral action. With the help of a northern abolitionist, Jacobs published this astounding, poignant record under the pseudonym Linda Brent. She was a slave woman, who for seven years lived in a tiny attic space in her grandmother's house before making her escape to the north. In Incidents, she recounts her story from her childhood, writing in lyrical and intimate tones which, in spite of its painful, agonizing rhetoric, coaxes the sensibilities of the reader. To Linda's credit, accounts of the ugly features in the daily life of a female slave; atrocities, treachery, humiliation; the lengths taken to evade the licentious abusers free at hand to mistreat, with impunity and the sanction of social (and religious) law; being hunted and separated from her children, were narrated with striking control and measured emotion, so that the reader is not overwhelmed by the lashes of such oppressive events. As a black slave woman, Linda suffered hardships unimaginable to women of the North. She spent most of her adolescent life in the household of Dr. Flint, barely able to keep at bay his lecherous sexual advances. Flint was consumed by a neurotic obsession that grew in severity and viciousness whenever his sexual harassments were foiled. "My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him." Linda could not accept the destruction of her moral and physical being, that is to say, by the conventional sexualizing of a female slave. She refused to become the passive female victim - instead, she was fiercely determined to protect her virtue and to steer its destiny herself, to uphold her dignity, to seek freedom or die in her attempt. As a final recourse to escape the grasp of one she hated and knowing it would outrage him, she succumbed instead to a kindly white neighbor to whom she would bear two children. When he told me I was made for his use, made to obey his command in every thing; that I was nothing but a slave, whose will must and should surrender to his, never before had my puny arm felt half so strong... The war of my life had begun; and though one of God's most powerless creatures, I resolve never to be conquered. Linda writes of her struggle to protect her womanhood with an ironclad sense of self, a determination to maintain an autonomous identity impenetrable to assault. She contrasts the roles of the female slave juxtaposed with those of the white female slaveholder, as they both existed under the same 'patriarchal roof,' and offers that, as hateful as slave owners were, there were those who were good and benevolent, though not in equal portions. She puts in grave context the uniquely female burdens of slavery: how inhumanly debauched and grotesquely disfigured white slaveholders were, being empowered by ownership of female slaves. Women are considered of no value, unless they continually increase their owners stock. They are put on a par with animals. This same master shot a woman through the head who had run away and been brought back to him...The master who did these things was highly educated, and styled a perfect gentleman. He also boasted the name and standing of a Christian, though Satan never had a truer follower. Landing on Philadelphia's soil, having severed the bonds from 'master,' was the ultimate triumph for the naturally virtuous spirit that could never acknowledge itself to be 'chattel.' Linda managed to keep the reins on her own destiny, pride and dignity; in her memory, she stored the love of family she left behind, and to her heart most dearly, she held her children. An important historicization of the female slave role or a victorious feminist's literature, Incidents also exists as a testimonial of tragic human losses in an oppressive institution, and a solemn reminder of those who did not escape it. For Harriet Jacobs aka Linda Brent , it is both a blood-soaked lamentation and an enlightening melody of the break from the chains that bound her. She concludes with subtext as impressive as her escape strategy: "Reader, my story ends with freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage." Harriet Ann Jacobs, 1813-1897 Fugitive Slave, Writer, Abolitionist

  6. 5 out of 5

    James

    Book Review Harriet Ann Jacob’s work was similar to Frederick Douglass’ narrative in that both of the pieces read so quickly and easily. I very much enjoyed Jacob’s piece. The language seemed so real and almost as though Harriet, or Linda, was telling the story to me herself. I understood the work very easily also probably because I had previously read Douglass’ piece which showed the life of a slave who was beaten viciously at times. Jacobs, who experienced a very different type of slavery Book Review Harriet Ann Jacob’s work was similar to Frederick Douglass’ narrative in that both of the pieces read so quickly and easily. I very much enjoyed Jacob’s piece. The language seemed so real and almost as though Harriet, or Linda, was telling the story to me herself. I understood the work very easily also probably because I had previously read Douglass’ piece which showed the life of a slave who was beaten viciously at times. Jacobs, who experienced a very different type of slavery was more mentally abused than physically abused. She was a strong woman who I admired very much. I thought she made a few mistakes in her life, but she was a role model for all the other slaves. Jacob’s work has shown the awful side of life like Douglass had, but Jacobs story was aimed more towards a white women’s audience (from the Intro...). Either way, she has shown the struggle of a woman who wants to free her children, and so she is also fighting for herself. She wants to free herself from the burdens of Mr. Flint. Jacobs work definitely is a strong model for women who are fighting to free themselves from the wrongs of society. She is a good representative of, at the same time, a woman from the mid 19th century who s trying to escape. She may not have suffered them same persecutions as every other slave, but she still suffered. It flowed so smoothly and really gained an interest from the readers. It hit home for some people and for others it just tugged on their heart strings some more. I think that it is very important for people to read this piece of literature because it gives a representation of a different side or type of American life. It is a part of our culture (back then) and a part of our history. Overall, I really liked this work and would recommend it to anyone. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Never having read a memoir written by a person living under the yoke of slavery, I found this autobiography painful and enlightening. Harriet Jacobs must have been a wonderfully strong woman to endure what she did and to demand her full rights as a human being. She refused to give in to the sexual demands of her owner. Let's examine that word a moment, her "owner" wanted to have sex with her, a teenage girl who already is working for the family and at their call 24 hours a day. Harriet could Never having read a memoir written by a person living under the yoke of slavery, I found this autobiography painful and enlightening. Harriet Jacobs must have been a wonderfully strong woman to endure what she did and to demand her full rights as a human being. She refused to give in to the sexual demands of her owner. Let's examine that word a moment, her "owner" wanted to have sex with her, a teenage girl who already is working for the family and at their call 24 hours a day. Harriet could never get away from him. Supposedly, a doctor, this disgusting excuse for a man, chose to spend his middle age pursuing a young girl night and day. She would rather give herself freely to another white man, a lawyer in his 20s who she thought might be able to help her. Rather then submit to the doctor she eventually is hidden in a small attic space in the roof of her grandmother's house for SEVEN years. What tenacity!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    Filled with sadness, heartache and misery, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the personal story of Harriet Ann Jacobs, known as Linda. Linda was born into slavery and enjoyed a life of childish happiness for a short time. But when her mother’s new owner Dr Flint took control of the slaves, life changed for his unfortunate chattels. For he was a cruel and vindictive man, always free with the whip and chain for any slight misdemeanour. The majority of the slave holders were this way; it was Filled with sadness, heartache and misery, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the personal story of Harriet Ann Jacobs, known as Linda. Linda was born into slavery and enjoyed a life of childish happiness for a short time. But when her mother’s new owner Dr Flint took control of the slaves, life changed for his unfortunate chattels. For he was a cruel and vindictive man, always free with the whip and chain for any slight misdemeanour. The majority of the slave holders were this way; it was rare to find someone who was kind to their slaves… Slavery was part of life in the South in the 1800s - fine if you were a slave holder; a master – shocking if you were mulatto as Linda and her family were. This story was hard to read knowing it’s all true – all authenticated. It’s a well written account of the brutality of the era; an emotional and worthwhile read which I recommend. You’ll find this one free to download on Project Gutenberg.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Bratschie

    I found this book in the free classics section of Amazon the other night when I couldn't sleep. I couldn't put it down - finished the whole thing within 30 hours. Slavery is such a heartbreaking thing - this book really helped me understand how devastating it was and why it had such a lasting impact on our society. Highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Letters of a Slave Girl by Mary Lyons was recommended to me, and maybe that one is easier to read than this book. That is a novel based on the life of Harriet Jacobs, and this book was actually written by her. She was a slave in the town I grew up in. It's been hard for me to finish it because it is really hard to let my mind be taken into a society like that. Her owner was a prominent member of the community, the doctor. I keep thinking, "I'm so glad I have never heard that the town doctor was Letters of a Slave Girl by Mary Lyons was recommended to me, and maybe that one is easier to read than this book. That is a novel based on the life of Harriet Jacobs, and this book was actually written by her. She was a slave in the town I grew up in. It's been hard for me to finish it because it is really hard to let my mind be taken into a society like that. Her owner was a prominent member of the community, the doctor. I keep thinking, "I'm so glad I have never heard that the town doctor was a part of my ancestry." But it has made me wonder what my ancestors at that time did think and accept about slavery. How did my forebears treat their slaves? I know they had them. What would I have thought and done if I was raised in that time? I have never heard of the sexual exploitation of the slave girls the way she portrays it in this book. It's so hard to believe that something like that was so prevalent and accepted. The brutality of that era is so awful to even think about. An interesting and emotional read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    You know, for being such a short book, this one packs a wallop. I think that we're all used to stories about the brutality and horrors of slavery, and that is a part of this memoir as well, but mostly it is focused on how degrading and dehumanizing and mentally torturous it is to be considered someone's property, to be used and treated however they feel, as though you're a throw rug to be taken out and beat for a while. I don't think that there's much that I could say about this book that hasn't You know, for being such a short book, this one packs a wallop. I think that we're all used to stories about the brutality and horrors of slavery, and that is a part of this memoir as well, but mostly it is focused on how degrading and dehumanizing and mentally torturous it is to be considered someone's property, to be used and treated however they feel, as though you're a throw rug to be taken out and beat for a while. I don't think that there's much that I could say about this book that hasn't already been said. Harriet Jacobs lived life at so many odds - she was a slave, but a well-treated one, by most standards. She wasn't beaten, or worked to the brink of death. She wasn't forced to watch her children be sold away from her one by one, as many other slave mothers were. She wasn't raped. In her community, her family was pretty well-respected and even loved, despite their being chattel. But the degradation and humiliation and constant risk of abuse and assault and death at the whim of someone who would be legally protected, and even socially justified, in mistreating you is just as punishing. So what do you choose? The horrific life you know and have come to expect, the life that is not your own, where your family could be snatched from you at a moment's notice... or do you risk everything and try to be free? Harriet chose the latter, and in doing so willingly constrained herself to a life much smaller and harder than she'd ever had to live through before - but with the prospect of freedom at the end of it. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Anne Frank's diary. The story of people so persecuted that their option is to be hauled away to be mistreated and killed, or to hide in cramped quarters with the hope of being overlooked and one day find their way to a better life. Harriet's story took place many years before Anne's did... but they both hurt my soul. I'm glad that things worked out for Harriet. I only wish more had been as lucky. Or, if I could have a real wish granted, I'd wish that humans were just better people in general, and that we didn't feel the need to subjugate, exploit, and kill others for their own gain. Just sayin'.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)

    (Courtesy of my blog, www.craftyscribbles.com) An unflinching account of Harriet Jacobs' life as woman "living" as a slave. I place living in quotations to demonstrate the difference between living a life, which connotes freedom, and surviving a life, which illustrates a resemblance of a life within another's desire to wrap cruel albatrosses around your neck, proverbial and literal. Ms. Jacobs' life began as a slave. She's never known freedom otherwise until her heartbreaking story leads to her (Courtesy of my blog, www.craftyscribbles.com) An unflinching account of Harriet Jacobs' life as woman "living" as a slave. I place living in quotations to demonstrate the difference between living a life, which connotes freedom, and surviving a life, which illustrates a resemblance of a life within another's desire to wrap cruel albatrosses around your neck, proverbial and literal. Ms. Jacobs' life began as a slave. She's never known freedom otherwise until her heartbreaking story leads to her freedom. Through various vignettes, she paints the picture of life with the evil industry, known as slavery. From favoritism based on complexion (i.e., fair-skinned slaves received less arduous mistreatment than darker toned counterparts) to daily sexual harassment to fear of losing one's children via kidnapping and the slave trade, she chronicles the indescribable ugliness of humans toward other humans. To call this story heartbreaking and unflinching feels basic. I could throw all the twenty-dollar words my education via blood, sweat, and tears of my ancestors sacrificed for me at this piece. Yet, I'd still feel unworthy of describing what she shares in the book, as if it's not my place to put her pain and the pain of others into words. I should just listen and learn without repeating the lack of humanity demonstrated. I shall not outline too much because I want you to capture the story yourself. But, indeed, inhumanity prevails as one clear comparison of inhumanity appears. To save herself from her owner's incessant sexual harassment, Ms. Jacobs hides in hutch in the attic, as did Anne Frank, hiding from Nazis in The Diary of a Young Girl. History insists on repeating...and we insist on ignoring the signs. Unfortunately, when slavery's discussed, we focus on male slaves. Their stories ring truer, due to misogyny and sexism. Female slaves and their stories find themselves in the back. Perhaps, their stories present harsher tales, including rape, sexual harassment, and watching their children kidnap and sold miles from them at any given age. Their pain rings deeper and many wish to not surround themselves in the deeper and complex horrors they offer, which causes further pain, as their stories require discussion and recognition too. Just like Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, this story, along with Jubilee, deserve study in America's classrooms without delay. Their pain is our pain, and we should never forget them. Verdict : Highly recommended. 5/5 Classroom lessons

  13. 4 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    "READER be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible but they are nevertheless strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery, on the contrary, my descriptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the names of places and given persons fictitious names. I had no motive for secrecy on my own account, but I deemed it kind and considerate towards others to pursue this course. I wish I were more competent to the "READER be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible but they are nevertheless strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery, on the contrary, my descriptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the names of places and given persons fictitious names. I had no motive for secrecy on my own account, but I deemed it kind and considerate towards others to pursue this course. I wish I were more competent to the task I have undertaken. But I trust my readers will excuse deficiencies in consideration of circumstances. I was born and reared in Slavery and I remained in a Slave State twenty seven years. Since I have been at the North it has been necessary for me to work diligently for my own support and the education of my children. This has not left me much leisure to make up for the loss of early opportunities to improve myself and it has compelled me to write these pages at irregular intervals whenever I could snatch an hour from household duties." - From preface. I have been waiting for awhile to write about this book. I have read and listened to a few slave narratives, but I believe, though the narration is very 19th century, the content is the most compelling slave narrative ever written. Frederick Douglass' autobiography is the most well-known and most eloquent, but this story by Harriet Jacobs is the most incredible and powerful and offers a view of slavery that many people do not really read about. We get to see slavery through the eyes, not only of a "house slave", but of a woman who was enslaved. Like Douglass, Jacobs was mixed-race and secretly became literate. But unlike him, she had the use of pure physical violence (sort-of) replaced with constant sexual violence (since age 12). Her time in slavery was between being molested and harassed by her master and being beaten and abused by her master's wife out of jealousy. One of the ways she initially tries to stop this is by taking a white lover who she had two children by him. This...did not work and when her likelihood of being out-right raped and her children being sold "down the river" became more likely, she pulled off the most amazing escape from slavery I have ever read. I do not want to reveal too much, but if you are familiar with The Diary of a Young Girl this is where we are going. Jacobs had twice tried to escape, but was caught so she pulls off an amazing gambit on her third try. While some slaves escaped, they did not always go straight north. (view spoiler)[Jacobs hid in a space in her grandmother's house only a little bigger than the hole that Saddam Hussein was found in for seven years and finally makes her way to New York. (hide spoiler)] She tries to just work for an abolitionist while getting her children out of slavery (which she does) and was almost captured, which prompts for her to finally be legally purchased and freed by her abolitionist sponsor. This book, beyond its story of Harriet/"Linda", adds a powerful feminist critique to slavery that is missing from other slave narratives of the time. The suffering of women as daughters, sisters, and mothers (and grandmothers) is examined in a personal way that you do not get with a Frederick Douglass. What is interesting also is that she talks in the beginning of how she did not realize that she was a slave until she was six years old. It reminds of when I reflected on my own childhood and realized that I did not know I lived in a ghetto until I was I was around seven; I am not a expert of child psychology, but that is still worth note. We know now of the horrors that African-American women faced during slavery, but this was a revolutionary account in 1861 when this book was published. Harriet Jacobs was a busy woman and she was as dedicated to the cause of freedom and respect for African-Americans as anyone during the 19th century. Her brother also published a slave narrative. "Reader my story ends with freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage. I and my children are now free! I We are as free from the power of slaveholders as are the white people of the north; and though that, according to my ideas, is not saying a great deal, it is a vast improvement in my condition. The dream of my life is not yet realized. I do not sit with my children in a home of my own. I still long for a hearthstone of my own, however humble. I wish it for my children's sake far more than for my own. But God so orders circumstances as to keep me with my friend Mrs. Bruce. Love, duty, gratitude, also bind me to her side. It is a privilege to serve her who pities my oppressed people, and who has bestowed the inestimable boon of freedom on me and my children. It has been painful to me, in many ways, to recall the dreary years I passed in bondage. I would gladly forget them if I could. Yet the retrospection is not altogether without solace; for with those gloomy recollections come tender memories of my good old grandmother, like light fleecy clouds floating over a dark and troubled sea." - last paragraph of autobiography. "Her story, as written by herself, cannot fail to interest the reader. It is a sad illustration of the condition of this country, which boasts of its civilization, while it sanctions laws and customs which make the experiences of the present more strange than any fictions of the past." - AMY POST Rochester, NY Oct 30th, 1859 I read this book as a part of The Classic Slave Narratives.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephani

    Next time you hear somebody going on about how the "mulatto" or "house negro" class in slave days were "privileged" and "got over" on the "field negroes," tell them to read this book. Sure, the "mulatto" or "light-skinned" slaves got to work in the house or were sometimes allowed to work away from the plantation in a trade and sometimes got to keep their own money. If they were really lucky, they might be taught to read on the sly. However, these "privileges" were likely to be taken away at any Next time you hear somebody going on about how the "mulatto" or "house negro" class in slave days were "privileged" and "got over" on the "field negroes," tell them to read this book. Sure, the "mulatto" or "light-skinned" slaves got to work in the house or were sometimes allowed to work away from the plantation in a trade and sometimes got to keep their own money. If they were really lucky, they might be taught to read on the sly. However, these "privileges" were likely to be taken away at any momemt at the whim of a slaveholder: If they needed money, the slave could be sold away to less comfortable circumstances. Or a "nice" slaveholer could die, leaving the slave to someone not so nice -- someone who might want to sexually abuse the slave, for instance. Sexual abuse of female slaves, especially house slaves, and the sexual hypocrisy of the times really makes this book stand out from, say, Frederick Douglass' narrative. Harriet Jacobs is so worried about people judging her for turning to another White man and having babies with him in the hope that it will make her evil lech "master" leave her alone. If she had succumbed to her "master's" lechery, she would have been viewed as just another slave woman forced to be a "bed wench." However, being a woman who chooses to have sex with a man (for whatever reason) upset her grandmother and put her at risk for people shunning her! This book makes you glad those days are over for more reasons than one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Well, it's a detailed book of the de-womanizing cruelties of slavery, which is always an interesting and educational read, but never easy or uplifting read. One thing I liked about this book compared to other slavery experience books I've read is the heart-wrenching description of the "slave mother's" soul, heartache, trials, worries, etc. The huge reason, though, I only gave this book 2 stars was because of my innate skepticism and the debated controversary always surrounding this book--many Well, it's a detailed book of the de-womanizing cruelties of slavery, which is always an interesting and educational read, but never easy or uplifting read. One thing I liked about this book compared to other slavery experience books I've read is the heart-wrenching description of the "slave mother's" soul, heartache, trials, worries, etc. The huge reason, though, I only gave this book 2 stars was because of my innate skepticism and the debated controversary always surrounding this book--many say that these events didn't happen to a real person, but were collected stories. Others, including the book itself, purport these experiences were all from and about one real woman, Harriett, who wrote the book. Of course I believe these atrocities occured and I shudder at the experiences, but the writer of this book seemed to have too grand and all-encompassing, philosophical, world-wide, and academic-thesis of a view on the experience. I would think a biography of a woman raised in slavery would be succinct, with simple, matter-of-fact statements, and un-flowerly language. This book was full of flowerly fluff and grandiose lamentations. I believe Harriett exisited and that these horrible things happened to her, but I think the editor was an abolitionist that took Harriett's 50 page story and blew it up into a huge flowery-fluffy-non-Harriett-like soap opera with unlikely philosophical understanding of the entire evil institution of slavery.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Flannery

    Okay, the cutest old man was one of our bazillion proctors at the bar exam and I joked with him in the elevator about how if I were him, I'd be freaking psyched for the day because it would mean 8 hours of reading. He told me all about how he was reading this interesting book. He came over later and asked me for my address so he could mail it to me when he finished it:-) But when I turned in my last set of questions for the day, he said he finished it for me and forked it over. What a Okay, the cutest old man was one of our bazillion proctors at the bar exam and I joked with him in the elevator about how if I were him, I'd be freaking psyched for the day because it would mean 8 hours of reading. He told me all about how he was reading this interesting book. He came over later and asked me for my address so he could mail it to me when he finished it:-) But when I turned in my last set of questions for the day, he said he finished it for me and forked it over. What a sweetheart! I'm giving him Coming of Age in Mississippi tomorrow:-)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This book was exhausting, emotionally and spiritually. Let it be an indictment to all those who think owning another human being is acceptable, even marginally. Let it be an indictment to all those who think that owning another human being should enter one's consciousness, even for a milli-second. The greatest censure this book brings is to all those who looked but did not see; who did not want to see: Are doctors of divinity blind, or are they hypocrites? I suppose some are the one, and some the This book was exhausting, emotionally and spiritually. Let it be an indictment to all those who think owning another human being is acceptable, even marginally. Let it be an indictment to all those who think that owning another human being should enter one's consciousness, even for a milli-second. The greatest censure this book brings is to all those who looked but did not see; who did not want to see: Are doctors of divinity blind, or are they hypocrites? I suppose some are the one, and some the other; but I think if they felt interest in the poor and the lowly, that they ought to feel, they wouldn't be so easily blinded. A clergyman who goes to the south for the first time, has usually some feeling, however vague, that slavery is wrong. The slaveholder suspects this and plays his game accordingly. he makes himself as agreeable as possible; talks on theology and other kindred topics. The reverend gentleman is asked to invoke a blessing on a table loaded with luxuries. After dinner he walks round the premises, and sees the beautiful groves and flowering vines, and the comfortable huts of favored household slaves. The southerner invites him to talk to those slaves. He asks me if they want to be free, and they say, "O, no massa." This is sufficient to satisfy him. He comes home to publish a "South Side View of Slavery", and to complain of the exaggeration of the abolitionists. He assures people that he has been to the south, and seen slavery for himself; that it is a beautiful, "patriarchal institution"; that the slaves don't want their freedom; that they have hallelujah meetings and other religious privileges. What does he know of the half-starved wretches toiling from dawn till dark on the plantations? of mothers shrieking for their children, torn from their arms by slave traders? of young girls dragged down into moral filth? of pools of blood around the whipping post? of hounds trained to tear human flesh? of men screwed into cotton gins to die? The slaveholder showed him none of these things and the slaves dared not tell of them if he had asked them. All those generations of people who marched past this horror playing before their eyes, and chose instead to avert their gaze. The book is a recrimination against society itself that one "colored woman" chose to live in a small garrett for seven years, no bigger than a contemporary prison cell, rather than submit to the cruelties of slavery. As Myrlie Evers-Williams writes in her introduction to this edition: Imagine, if you will, the indefatigable spirit of a woman who would choose life in a "coffin", dead to the institution of slavery, but alive in her pursuit of freedom, rather than a "good" life in the hands of her owner. ... The name of Harriet Jacobs is not one that comes readily to mind when exploring heroism of the nineteenth century -- or any century for that matter. But her actions speak encouragingly to any who have been faced with insurmountable problems with seemingly no way out. If ever there has been an understatement in literature, surely this is it: for to say it speaks encouragingly is such faint praise. It speaks with deafening prose; it speaks passionately, and intensely; and even from far beyond the grave, speaks resoundingly.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Missy J

    First-hand account of slavery written by a 19th century former slave and later abolitionist named Harriet Jacobs. She published this novel in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. Jacobs was born in Edenton (North Carolina) in 1813. Both of her parents were biracial slaves and her maternal grandmother was highly respected in the small town Edenton by both white and black folks. Jacobs' mother belonged to a kind mistress who taught Jacobs how to read and write. When Jacobs was 12 years old, both First-hand account of slavery written by a 19th century former slave and later abolitionist named Harriet Jacobs. She published this novel in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. Jacobs was born in Edenton (North Carolina) in 1813. Both of her parents were biracial slaves and her maternal grandmother was highly respected in the small town Edenton by both white and black folks. Jacobs' mother belonged to a kind mistress who taught Jacobs how to read and write. When Jacobs was 12 years old, both of her parents had passed away already and her mistress just died. Jacobs was handed over to her mistress's five year old niece, whose father Dr. Norcom became obsessed with Jacobs. As a teenager, Jacobs was incessantly harassed by Dr. Norcom. He even built a small cottage in a remote area, where he fancied to keep Jacobs as his concubine. To deal with this problem, Jacobs willingly got pregnant by a local white lawyer named Samuel Sawyer. Even though they conceived two children, Dr. Norcom still terrorized Jacobs and threatened to harm her children. The situation became increasingly impossible for Jacobs to evade Dr. Norcom's advances. In 1835, she ran away and hid in several friends' homes (including the home of a local rich white woman, who revered Jacobs' grandmother). Jacobs ended up hiding in her grandmother's house, in a tiny space between the roof and the storage room, which could only be entered through a folding door which was located in a built-in cupboard constructed by her uncle! She stayed there for 7 years unbeknownst to her own children who were living with their great-grandmother. In 1842, Jacobs finally found a way to escape to the North. I don't want to reveal all the details of her life, but her story is fascinating. I have only read one other first-hand slavery account (Twelve Years a Slave), but Jacobs' story is different because she was born into slavery. Her story is horrific, but at the same time very inspiring, especially her views on humanity and her philosophy of life. She simply believes that one person cannot "own" another person. The laws at that time permitted slavery. Despite what the law said, Jacobs was adamant that slavery is wrong. What impressed me the most was her detailed description of the relationship between the slave and the slave-owner. It's a very one-sided relationship, and yet psychologically very complicated. We all know that male-slave owners could do anything they wanted with their female slaves, which angered the slave owner's wife. Female slaves would have to deal with the mistress's wrath. Despite all the bad things that happen to her, Jacobs still manages to empathize with Dr. Norcom's wife and conclude that both women (the slave and the slave-owner's wife) were victims of this demon system called slavery. Jacobs also criticized the Northern Free States a lot and she saw little difference between the South and the North, the example of public transportation (in the South, blacks would have to sit in the back carriage which was filthy, but they didn't have to pay for it, whereas in the North, blacks would still have to sit in the filthy back carriage, but would have to pay a fare for it). Many Northerners would look down at the South and its barbaric ways with slavery, but then would happily marry off their daughters to a rich Southern family. Jacobs was very angry about this hypocrisy! She briefly describes her experience in England and how she felt free there. I was surprised to read that she never experienced racism in England. She mentions her gratitude to every person who helped her escape from Dr. Norcom, which include both black and white people. All in all, I think that this book would make an excellent read for high school students. They can learn more about slavery from a first-hand account and the developments that occurred during Jacobs' lifetime (the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850). They can learn about the complex relationships between the slave owner and the slave, and also between the slaves themselves. The book also deals with gender inequality, which is still a relevant topic for students to discuss. Harriet Jacobs left us with a very important piece of work for us to learn about history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    The bill of sale is on record, and future generations will learn from it that women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in the United States. I well know the value of that bit of paper; but much as I love freedom, I do not like to look upon it. I am deeply grateful to the generous friend who procured it, but I despise the The bill of sale is on record, and future generations will learn from it that women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in the United States. I well know the value of that bit of paper; but much as I love freedom, I do not like to look upon it. I am deeply grateful to the generous friend who procured it, but I despise the miscreant who demanded payment for what never rightfully belonged to him or his. I wonder what drove the Barnes & Noble Powers That Be to make an officious edition of this, cause see, there aren't too many women of color in its ranks. Of course it is so, popular creed dictates, but that's not good enough. The introduction mentions more than a century of main(white)stream(male) criticism digging in their heels with it is of too poor a quality, so it is not worth reading. It is of too good a quality, so she didn't write it, so it is not worth reading. How much of this is the gatekeeping system of credibility that has favorably viewed slavery for millenia longer than it has denounced it, and how much of it is putting themselves in her place. Slave born, targeted from puberty on, negotiating the self in exchange for lifeless monetary stuffs from maturity on, no law, little power, the barring from the public sphere as befits a woman, the degradation of the human soul as befits a US person of color, and she not only escapes, but works, and writes, and publishes. When canonizing a work such as this, it is not about lowering the standards, but raising, eyeing every Hawthorne Poe and Twain, estimating who would have triumphed over the same lot in life and lived to authorship accordingly. What is at stake is not the value of literature after the legal system once again breaks wide to let another spark of humanity through, but how much it was worth before, and before, and before, when estimations of quality eyed only the pinnacle of the pyramid and thought it good. There may be sophistry in this; but the condition of a slave confuses all principles of morality, and, in fact, renders the practice of them impossible. To some existence, to others rhetoric. Rape, slavery, Holocaust, words of a certain coinage that invalidate the pain of millions when used to further an argument, convey a metaphor, offer an explanation from the mouth who never, ever, would have done so had the word's intonation encompassed a segment of their life. Nothing is sacred, so why don't you sell your children on the suburban market. Nothing is sacred, so why don't you shoot your boss and quit your job for life. Nothing is sacred, and yet everyone knows which subjects posted on the Internet will garner the most death threats from those who will never be called terrorists or threats to national security. Religion is all very well, but an ethics that views certain years as particular problems solved to satisfaction is the same sort of bad faith that fueled the creation of this edition as a tiny offering of peace. Objectivity's sure convenient when the few're fueled by the cannibalization of many. ...I observed how careful they all were not to say anything that might wound my feelings. How gratifying this was, can be fully understood only by those who have been accustomed to be treated as if they were not included within the pale of human beings. I want all the white boys out there to imbibe only media where their representation oscillates between nonexistence and a joke for as long as is necessary for the mewling and puking to stop and holistic awareness to set in. The problem, of course, is I doubt you'll even try. There are wrongs which even the grave does not bury.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Merna

    This book reminds me that Disney villains are very real.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    This is what I'm talking about. It's Abolitionist week for my work this week, so I've read this, and Uncle Tom's Cabin, and I'm really, really glad I read this second. I couldn't have sat through a sentimentalist novel by a white lady after this. I would probably have projectile vomited all over it. Earlier in the year, I read Lynn Hunt's fantastic book, Inventing Human Rights , the main premise of which is that literature sparks empathy better than anything else, so reading about other people's This is what I'm talking about. It's Abolitionist week for my work this week, so I've read this, and Uncle Tom's Cabin, and I'm really, really glad I read this second. I couldn't have sat through a sentimentalist novel by a white lady after this. I would probably have projectile vomited all over it. Earlier in the year, I read Lynn Hunt's fantastic book, Inventing Human Rights , the main premise of which is that literature sparks empathy better than anything else, so reading about other people's experiences is the biggest breeder of human rights, and certainly one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment. Fast-forward eighty years or so and abolitionist literature is the best example of this I can think of: hence why Uncle Tom did so very well when it came out. But, of course, as with men writing female protagonists, and the fragrant Mrs Stowe writing about devout and ridiculously patient slaves... it's a pale imitation, isn't it? I mean, it misses the point. We shouldn't care about people because they're really very good and they pray a lot and they like us. We should care about people because they're people, and even if they were kleptomaniac sociopaths, they still get dignity. It's not a case of deserving it. That's not the point of dignity. The upshot of which is: less Uncle Tom, please, and more this. More voices of victims, more listening, more empathy. Less religion for its own sake, more humanity. This is great. Principle aside, however: it's a great story. Full of people, and anecdotes, well argued, well presented. Brave as all hell; stuffed with heart and humanity like the best of stories. Could anyone read it and not be convinced of its author's intelligence, independence, capability? As a polemic and a figurehead, Harriet Jacobs is articulate and persuasive. I can only imagine the effect it had - it should have had - when it came out. When I don't have to whistle through things and dissect them, I might come back to this again, a bit more slowly. There's a lot to fascinate in the narrative: I'm glad it exists, and someone pointed it in my direction. USians, this is part of your cultural history. Western Europeans, it's a step in place of the voices notably absent in our histories. Everyone else, it's a bloody good yarn. It deserves your attention.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Harriet Jacobs, a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, was fortunate in the sense that she was never whipped. But her life was nonetheless a living hell. An attractive mulatto, she was sexually harassed by her owner, the town's respectable doctor, for years, and despised by the owner's wife because of it. She surrendered her morals (this was the way she and her grandmother saw it) to another white man who was kind to her in order to at least have some control over her situation. She bore two Harriet Jacobs, a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, was fortunate in the sense that she was never whipped. But her life was nonetheless a living hell. An attractive mulatto, she was sexually harassed by her owner, the town's respectable doctor, for years, and despised by the owner's wife because of it. She surrendered her morals (this was the way she and her grandmother saw it) to another white man who was kind to her in order to at least have some control over her situation. She bore two children by him in the hopes that being "another man's woman" would put a stop to the doctor's sexual predation. Let's have a look at the good doctor, who caused Jacobs so much mental and emotional torture: Dr. James Norcom, Sr. Here's his biography: http://ncpedia.org/biography/norcom-j... When her owner threatened to send her two young children to a plantation known for its brutality, Jacobs went into hiding in a tiny attic space in her grandmother's house in order to divert the doctor's attention. She lived in this coffin-like space for nearly seven years, occasionally venturing out when the coast was clear for a few moments at a time. (The parallels to Anne Frank seem obvious, but the scholarly introduction didn't go there.) Her white lover had secured a domestic position for her young daughter in New York, so once she thought her two children were relatively safe, she escaped from the crawl space, practically a cripple, and sailed north. She served as a domestic and nanny for several kind and/or abolitionist employers. The Fugitive Slave Act became law in 1850 and her owner's offspring kept up the hunt for her, causing some tense times. Finally her employer bought her freedom for $300, which was both a relief and a degradation: she always felt a complete human being, she denied ever being property or chattel, so it was painful to be the object of a commercial transaction. An interesting side note is that Jacobs approached Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Jacobs' story for her, but Stowe was only interested in her as material for her own writing. Moreover, Jacobs had detailed her sexual history in a letter to Stowe and Stowe revealed those details to Jacobs' employer without her knowledge.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Crease

    Why does the slave ever love? Why allow the tendrils of the heart to twine around objects which may at any moment be wrenched away by the hand of violence? Six generations after outlawing of the "living death" that was slavery, virtually everyone agrees with the general sentiment that slavery was awful. But while the physical torment endured by slaves is what is often at the forefront of the discussion, the emotional and psychological toll is indescribable. "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" Why does the slave ever love? Why allow the tendrils of the heart to twine around objects which may at any moment be wrenched away by the hand of violence? Six generations after outlawing of the "living death" that was slavery, virtually everyone agrees with the general sentiment that slavery was awful. But while the physical torment endured by slaves is what is often at the forefront of the discussion, the emotional and psychological toll is indescribable. "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" brings to life these torments, if such a thing can be accomplished without the actual experience. There's a devastating passage about halfway through the book, relating the treatment of an elderly slave by the new mistress of the house. I'd planned to quote it, but ultimately decided not to, so as not to scare off potential readers. I'm not certain that I've ever read anything that affected me so.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ann R

    “I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.” ― Harriet Jacobs (Linda) At times this was a difficult book to read, not due to the writing but instead “I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.” ― Harriet Jacobs (Linda) At times this was a difficult book to read, not due to the writing but instead because of the subject. Although the author never worked in the fields and learned to read and write, she suffered in different ways. Written in eloquent language, this memoir is as much about sexual and emotional abuse, as it is about slavery. Perhaps due to the time period, the suffering is not represented in an overtly explicit way, but enough details are provided to paint a picture of what Harriet Jacobs had to endure. Linda (Jacob's pseudonym in the memoir) makes some difficult and questionable decisions while trying to escape the advances of her obsessed master. At one point the author asks, “Reader, did you ever hate? I hope not. I never did but once; and I trust I never shall again. Somebody has called it "the atmosphere of hell; and I believe it is so.” Based on historical information, this is one of the few first person narratives written from a woman's point of view. It was edited by women's rights activist L. Maria Child, so one is left to wonder how much of her influence is represented in the final draft. I'd recommend this book to everyone and it is free to read through Project Gutenberg. The Audible version narrated by Jean Barrett is also well done.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zeek

    A retelling of the lives of black slaves of the south through the eyes of one born a slave during the pre-civil war years in America. Harriet tells not only her own story, but countless others, and at the time it was written, it fanned the abolitionist fires that started a war. Much of her story exposes not only the cruel and inhuman treatment of slaves in general, but also the sexual predatory ways of men in power- i.e. her own tyrannical master, Doctor Flint. The author loathed her position A retelling of the lives of black slaves of the south through the eyes of one born a slave during the pre-civil war years in America. Harriet tells not only her own story, but countless others, and at the time it was written, it fanned the abolitionist fires that started a war. Much of her story exposes not only the cruel and inhuman treatment of slaves in general, but also the sexual predatory ways of men in power- i.e. her own tyrannical master, Doctor Flint. The author loathed her position and when faced with the very real possibility of being forced into a corner of submission, she submitted to another white man- one who possibly could be considered predatory as well, in my eyes, as she was only 15 when their relationship started, but one who did not have control over her. However much she longed to be virtuous- she used the only means available to her in subverting her master and gave herself to the man who showed her nothing but kindness. Soon after, finding herself with child, her humiliation was great- especially when her own grandmother reproached her for her situation. But she had hopes the father of her children would buy her from her tormentor. Of course those hopes were dashed by Mr. Flint, who refused to sell her. Through constant sexual harassment, a quashed rebellion, brutal beatings, repeated failed attempts to get away from her evil master, to tricking him into selling her loved ones to her white lover who eventually gave them their freedom. From hiding in a crawl space in her grandmother’s home FOR YEARS, to a flight to the north and eventual freedom for herself, Linda relates her gritty account, far more clearly than the more famous abolitionist novel of that time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And even with that behind her in a physical sense, the ghosts of her past experiences never left her and segregation remained still very real in the North. This story needed to be told. I have no doubt the tales related are true, for the evil that lurks in the heart of man, crouching and waiting to be released by absolute power over another, is far more wicked than any devil. The joys of freedom all the sweeter after knowing such maliciousness. Never doubt that evil is still lurking and is being released even now. We all would do well to remember that, as ever, “…God judges men by their hearts, not by the color of their skins,” and that one day there will be a recompense.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This powerful memoir gives us a little feel of slavery’s inescapable relentlessness. It’s painful to read and experience along with the author, but what an inspiring heroine. “I had heard that the poor slave had many friends at the north. I trusted we should find some of them. Meantime, we would take it for granted that all were friends, till they proved to the contrary.” If a woman who went through what Harriet Jacobs went through: years of oppression by the family that “owned” her, constant fear This powerful memoir gives us a little feel of slavery’s inescapable relentlessness. It’s painful to read and experience along with the author, but what an inspiring heroine. “I had heard that the poor slave had many friends at the north. I trusted we should find some of them. Meantime, we would take it for granted that all were friends, till they proved to the contrary.” If a woman who went through what Harriet Jacobs went through: years of oppression by the family that “owned” her, constant fear for herself and her family, 7 years hiding in a tiny garret, being terrorized by the horrific Fugitive Slave Act … if after all of that she can say this, can give people the benefit of the doubt, people she has every reason in the world to despise and be deathly afraid of, does that not put the rest of us to shame? “What would they have done under similar circumstances?” Despite a life of such painful constraint and persecution, Harriet Jacobs left an amazing legacy. In addition to writing this enlightening book, she went on to become a nurse during the Civil War, and to devote herself to assisting postwar black people, even founding The Jacobs Free School. At the end of this narrative we learn about the legacy of the man who was once her slave master. I’ll just say the contrast is striking.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cathie

    True memoir penned by Harriet Jacobs and the inhumanity of life as a slave. This was written in 1861 and was very controversial at the time of it's release, as many debunked the truth of Jacobs because slaves were not allowed to learn how to write or read. (Ms. Jacobs was a house servant who's mistress ~ ie owner ~ allowed her to take books to her grandmother's and also helped her to read and write; her mistress was 7 years old.) The cruelty which we inflict on other human beings never ceases to True memoir penned by Harriet Jacobs and the inhumanity of life as a slave. This was written in 1861 and was very controversial at the time of it's release, as many debunked the truth of Jacobs because slaves were not allowed to learn how to write or read. (Ms. Jacobs was a house servant who's mistress ~ ie owner ~ allowed her to take books to her grandmother's and also helped her to read and write; her mistress was 7 years old.) The cruelty which we inflict on other human beings never ceases to curdle my soul. A powerful read written by one woman who lived it daily. The strength of the human soul to endure and carry on never ceases to amaze me. May we never forget and may we never repeat what we have done before.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    As I start to write this review, the literary internet is blowing up somewhat because the Association for Library Service to Children has changed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The change is only to the name of the award (the ALA or ALSC is not banning the books) largely because of the comments about Native Americans in the books, including people saying things like “a good Indian is a dead Indian”. While some people are upset at the eradicating on As I start to write this review, the literary internet is blowing up somewhat because the Association for Library Service to Children has changed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The change is only to the name of the award (the ALA or ALSC is not banning the books) largely because of the comments about Native Americans in the books, including people saying things like “a good Indian is a dead Indian”. While some people are upset at the eradicating on Wilder’s legacy (not sure how a name change is eradicating, though a civil discussion online included a person pointing out that some people can see the name removal as a disrespect to a legacy), there are equally enough people (myself included) who are fine with it. Wilder’s books are a product of her time (and her daughter to some degree). And if I was a poc, I would be very uncomfortable with an award for children’s literature named after an author who does have racism in her books, especially when there is a focused effort to make children’s books more diverse. What all this did was contribute to how I think about the literary canon. The canon should be, at the very least, ever growing. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a host of reasons why we don’t have very many good English Renaissance Woman poets, and those reasons have nothing to do with the size of woman’s brains or talent. That said, the canon is still largely male and white. For instance, and more to the point of this review, while we should read Frederick Douglass, why shouldn’t we also read Harriet Jacobs? Jaocbs’ book is truth but with the names changed. In the book, she is Linda, her children have different, and one presumes that the names of the slave owners are different too. This makes sense for why Jacobs court abduction and harm by would using her own name, or harm those who aided her in her escape. Jacobs’ work chronicles Linda’s birth into slavery, and injustice as her family was kidnapped back into slavery after being returned their freedom. The bulk of the book is focuses on Linda’s struggles to gain her freedom. This starts as a result of attempts to avoid being raped by her legal owner’s father. Her legal owner is a five-year-old girl at the start of the book. Whereas Douglass could not write about a woman’s experience under slave, Jacobs’ can. Not only does she explore the greater obstacles that an enslaved woman had to overcome, but she also illustrates why it is the male slave narrative that tend to greater play. It is difficult, extremely difficult, to escape and leave your children behind as well as cover land while pregnant or nursing. The interesting thing is that the story shows us a case of a master relationship with his slave that isn’t a physical attack of rape. Now, Linda’s master does want to rape her. He has the power, she really cannot say no. But it is important to note that he does not physically attack her. He keeps “offering” her nice things and then threatening her with punishment. The attacks are mental and not physical, undoubtedly to make the slave owner justify himself. It’s an important aspect to know about. As is Linda’s solution to the problem is to take as much control of her own destiny as she can in her very limited opportunities. It also raises the question of freedom and sexual freedom. Jacobs is also more aware of the contrast between the public face of slaver owners and the private face of slave owners. She notes the hidden lives of Congressman as well as the hypocrisy of a preacher getting a black enslave woman pregnant and the society not caring but watch out if it is a white woman who is not his wife he gets pregnant. This is a book that should be read and included more often in composition courses.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    My eighth grade history teacher, who fancied himself an iconoclast conservative in a sea of conformist liberals, once said in class that slaveowners treated slaves well because they needed to protect their property, like a Cadillac. He did not ask what the single African-American in that advance class thought. I recently heard someone take the same faux inconoclastic position. If there is justice, I hope both men are sentenced to read this book for eternity. What Jacobs proves is that My eighth grade history teacher, who fancied himself an iconoclast conservative in a sea of conformist liberals, once said in class that slaveowners treated slaves well because they needed to protect their property, like a Cadillac. He did not ask what the single African-American in that advance class thought. I recently heard someone take the same faux inconoclastic position. If there is justice, I hope both men are sentenced to read this book for eternity. What Jacobs proves is that slaveowners did think of slaves as property, but there is no guarantee that owners treat property well, especially property that has a family, that has spirit, that needs basic human decency. Jacobs not only worked in the house but on the plantation; she rebuffed the advances of one white man but was seduced by a second (who later lied about freeing their children); she spent seven years in a tiny space in her grandmother's house (who had been freed), where she could watch those children play and hear people talk about how she would come back pleading to be accepted. Writing her story later, she was oddly formal in that nineteenth century way, but not without wit: "Hot weather brings out snakes and slaveholders, and I like one class of the venomous creatures as little as I do the other. What a comfort it is, to be free to say so."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aric Cushing

    This book is riveting. The fact that it was written at all is unbelievable. THIS should be required reading in high schools, but unfortunately I don't think it's on the list.

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