Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs. Published by MobileReference (mobi)

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This is an electronic edition of the complete book complemented by author biography. This book features the table of contents linked to every chapter. The book was designed for optimal navigation on the Kindle, PDA, Smartphone, and other electronic readers. It is formatted to display on all electronic devices including the Kindle, Smartphones and other Mobile Devices with a small display.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a book that was published in 1861 by Harriet Jacobs, using the pen name "Linda Brent". While on one level it chronicles the experiences of Harriet Jacobs as a slave, and the various humiliations she had to endure in that unhappy state, it also deals with the particular tortures visited on women at her station. Often in the book, she will point to a particular punishment that a male slave will endure at the hands of slave holders, and comment that, although she finds the punishment brutal in the extreme, it cannot compare to the abuse that a young woman must face while still on the cusp of girlhood.

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Customer Reviews:

  • An Important Perspective on Slavery
    Often taught along side Frederick Douglass's Narritive of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl offers an important incite into the abuses that female slaves faced. While Douglass's narrative stresses house slavery emasculated male slaves, Jacbos shows how slavery robbed female slaves of their womanhood. Jacobs' alter-ego, Linda Brent, was never physically beaten, like Douglass; the horrors of slavery for her were sexual horrors. Linda must try to ward of the sexual advances of her master while simultaneously dealing with the sexual jealously of her mistress.

    This text is important because it shows how the experience of slavery was gendered and how the experience of womanhood was different for people in different classes. Linda's mother, grandmother, and first mistress all believed in the cult of true womanhood, a prevelant ideology in mid-nineteenth century America that said that women should be "pure, pious, domestic and submissive." Linda was raised with these ideas, but failed to live up to them. While Linda feels shameful and guilty for failing to live up to the standards of the cult of true womanhood, she realizes that slave women cannot be judged by the same standards as middle-class white women because their cultural context is so different. This is, perhaps, the most radical and important message in Jacobs' text.

    From the time that the narrative was published (anonymously) until the 1980s, the authenticity of Jacobs' narrative has been called into question. For over 100 years, scholars and historians assumed that the narrative was false, either ghost written by the editor (Lydia Maria Child) or completely written by her without a grain of truth. Thanks to the work of historian Jean Fagan Yellin, we now know that the narrative was written by Jacobs herself and that all the major events in the narrative are true. There is no reason why this book shouldn't be read as an authentic slave narrative. ...more info
  • Another of the most important books you'll ever read...
    Jacobs was a slave-- and endured unbearable harships to escape the unwanted "romantic" attentions of her owner and eventually slavery altogether. Her text, written as an autobiography to prove, in part, that an African American woman could be just as moral and brave as the target audience of white women who were ignoring the slave system as something they had nothing to do with, is a classic of African American literature. The story is interesting, well-written and sometimes as tense as any dramatic nail-biter. This is a historical document as much as it is a good read. This book should be required reading for anyone who wants to know about the US troubled relationship with race, still today and in our past....more info
  • A wonderful book
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent is a deeply touching narrative of a slave woman's journey through the heinous institution of slavery to her eventual emancipation. Through her description of bonded labor, the reader very poignantly realizes what it was like for millions of African Americans to be brutalized and ravaged by slavery. Written in 1861 to educate the Northerners, especially the women, about the evils of slavery, the autobiography is a harrowing account of a woman's life, what the author ironically calls her `adventures'. The abuse that the palpably intelligent and veracious author had to undergo has the power to humble every one of us even today.
    Linda Brent was born as a slave in the household of a miraculously benevolent mistress. She lost her mother at the age of six, but her mistress, who was her mother's half-sister, took good care of her and endowed on her ward the gift of literacy. The degradative reality of slavery was hidden from the author till she entered her early teens, when within a year both her mistress and her father passed away, and she was acquired by the household of Dr. Flint. At his plantation, the author had to bear the full force of slavery. From this time to the author's eventual freedom, the reader gets a glimpse of the persecution that a slave had to face.
    As mentioned above, the book was written to illustrate the depravity of slavery to people living in the North. It is striking to see how humbly, or even apologetically, the author has used her life to explain the circumstances of slavery. She has used fictitious names and concealed the names of places so as not to offend any person, black or white. As one reads the book, the author can definitely be identified as a pious and truthful person, and becomes easy to see why the author places so much emphasis on her secrecy. The book is not written to garner sympathy from readers, but to shock readers into the realities of slavery. It was an appeal to the people who the author thought had the power to defeat slavery to act on it.
    The author's main argument is that slavery is not just about perpetual bondage, but it involves the absolute debasement of a people. She painfully acknowledges that the `black man is inferior', but vociferously argues that it is a result of slavery, which stymies the intellectual capacity of her race. She believes that `white men compel' the black race to be ignorant. Although she was wronged by many Southern white men, she does not blame the white race for her ills. She believes that the institution of slavery has ample negative impact on the household and psyche of a white family as well, and that white males are coerced into being brutal. She rebukes `the Free States' in her own pacific way for condoning slavery in the South. Her stand is that a life of manumit destitution is radically more acceptable than bondage, and that is the general idea that the author wants the readers to remember.
    The book is sequenced more or less in a chronological order. The author's astoundingly comfortable childhood is shattered by the nefarious demands of being a pubescent female slave. She explains how even the body of a slave is not her own, and is considered to be a property of the slaveholder, that can violated or abused according to his wishes. Her analogy to being traded or shot like pigs demonstrates the extent of shame that a slave had to bear with. Her infatuation and blind faith in the goodness of a white man make her the mother of two children, and her determination to keep them away from the evils of slavery becomes her primary goal. In her attempts to flee from slavery, she has to hide in a den above her grandmother's house for seven years. The anguish of a mother who can see her children but not be able to communicate with them is heart wrenching. The story of her escape to the North is also incredible. Even after reaching the north, she had to resist prejudice and fear for a long time before she and her children eventually became free.
    By reading the book, the reader can definitely get to experience the life of a slave. Perhaps the shocking brutality of the truth is shielded in the book by the author's conscious effort to not be a cause of affront. She wrote this book because she had a message to give to the readers, but was held back in a way by her goodness. On the other hand, reading a book written in a simple way, as though the author was narrating her story in front of the reader, goes on to validate her tragedy. It is explained in a more personal way than a historian would explain it, and the harsh emotions experienced by the author break through, even though she tries to suppress her sadness. The author's argument that slavery is humiliating is proved by the fact that the author does not explain exactly how she was mentally and physically abused. She only points out that she had to bear physical and mental decadence, but does elaborate on the techniques of the likes of Dr. Flint.
    It has to be remembered that this book was not written to be a historical text. It is about a woman's personal fight with slavery. It cannot be argued that her emotions were wrong or that her views about slavery can be challenged in any way. Readers who have not experienced slavery are not in a position to do so. This book definitely manages to do what it was intended to do, and that is to make the reader aware that slavery was a harrowing experience for the African Americans. As a book of past injustices and future hopes, it is a must read....more info
  • Excellent Slave History
    This book is hard to put down, and hard to pick up. Dramatic recall of her life as a slave and her escape. I love this book and recommend it to anyone wanting to know the truth about life as a female slave....more info
  • An excellent piece of literature
    This book is the memoir of an ex-slave woman published in 1861. The author is a gifted story-teller and evokes feeling very well. The author was inspired by religous conviction and great personal confidence. This book is too genuine to think that someone else wrote it for her, such as her white editor. It would have turned it into just another political phamphlet from the civil war era if that were the case. She had a great deal of intelligence and obvious natural ability to write despite her lack of formal education.

    She goes through her nonage at the mercy of a lecherous master, Dr. Flint, whom she successfully avoids against being raped yet is subjected to constant verbal and sometimes physical abuse. She managed to escape and hide in her Grandmother's house in some sort of extremely small space where she had to remain almost all the time for seven years.

    She escapes to the North eventually and joins her two children, products of a relationship with a white man, a future congressman, of her town as she was trying to get away from her master. She falls into the hands of various abolitionst-inclined aristocrats who help protect her, particularly after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, until one of her white benefactors was able to negotiate with Dr. Flint's son-in-law, Dr. Flint being dead by this time, to "buy" her freedom. Having to have her freedom bought was very distasteful to her for she had long fully reasoned herself a human being and not a cow.

    It is good to read books like this that remind you just how horrible slavery was. Hardly a system where happy and content slaves worked for benevolent philospher aristocratic gentleman. It was a system which subjected slaves without protection of the law to the short term profit and personal whims of the white elite. To put it mildly. Blacks were treated worse than animals with all the whipping and constant mental degredation and the breaking up of slave families at a whim. The author asserts after visiting England as a nanny for one of her benefactors and observing the life of some of the dirt poor in rural England that the poorest of them lived better than the most pampered slave in America....more info

  • A powerful testimony of enslavement and defiance
    The enslavement of African people in the United States is, without a doubt, one of the best-documented examples of systemic human rights abuse in world history. According to one estimate, more than 6 thousand ex-slaves left behind, in various formats, written testimonies of their experience. One of the most important of these testimonies is "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," by Harriet Jacobs. First published in 1861, it is still a powerful piece of literature.

    Jacobs' narrative, although validated as factual by such 20th century scholars as Jean Fagan Yellin, is written in an almost novelistic style. As a narrative, it is well-structured and vividly written. Jacobs is an outstanding narrator; her voice is rich in moral outrage and psychological insight.

    Jacobs writes movingly of the terrible sufferings of Black slaves. But equally fascinating is her portrayal of the whites who were involved in the terrible institution of slavery. Her master and mistress are not one-dimensional villains; rather, her layered portrait depicts them as pathetic individuals who are psychologically crippled by the overlapping scourges of white supremacy and male chauvinism. Their cruelty seems to reflect an inner pathology.

    Elsewhere in the book Jacobs reveals the southern whites' fears of slave revolts, and she paints a richly satiric portrait of a white clergyman who exploits the Bible and Christian theology as "tools" with which to psychologically intimidate the slave population.

    "Incidents" is a fascinating text that will amply reward the attentive reader. But this is more than just a fine piece of writing; it is also the powerful personal testament of a woman who survived a harrowing ordeal and emerged as a bold advocate of justice....more info

  • Excellent Book, and very moving.
    This book is one of those books that have quite an affect on you. By the time I was done I had a bit more of knowledege of how slavery really was. Clearly I had no idea until I read it. I really wanted to cry so many times during the book.

    Everyone should read this book....more info
  • Unexpected turn of events
    It's obvious the difficulty slaves endured. Ironic, but she endures a great deal more than most. How her story ends is not predictable. ...more info
  • Get ready to cry!
    This is the most touching story I have ever read, I cried more than once. It brings to life what slaves went through in the south, and the terrible injustice dumped on the African because of color. I read this book to get an idea what slavery would be like in its heyday, well this book gave it to me. The surprise was I became touched deeply by the suffering of this magnificent woman. Should be required reading in schools so our children can understand what our country did to its own Citizens....more info
  • Amazing Account of Our History!!
    Jacobs has contributed a wonderful document to our nation's history of her experiences as a slave. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in our country's history!!...more info
  • This Story Must Be Told Often!
    Incidents in the Life Of A Slave Girl is a harrowing, personal experience of a AA female born and raised during the tumultuous, infamous and tragic era of slavery in America's history. Harriett Jacobs, aka Linda Brent, tells in her own voice-one that is explicit and easy to understand-the story of a young woman born into the brutal, horrendous slavery era who later escapes to freedom in the North. Incidents is emotional and the feelings are raw as you experience the tale of a slave who desired freedom so badly that she hid for SEVEN YEARS in a narrow, cramped quarter without much freedom of movement. The story is riveting and moving and shows what an individual is able to accomplish in spite of sex, race and slavery. Incidents is a story of bravery in light of insurmountable circumstances and ones belief that they can succeed in spite of unmeasurable difficulties.

    Incidents is an excellent reading selection for a bookgroup and a book that I highly recommend to everyone. Remember the story and share the story so that history doesn't repeat itself....more info

  • slavery: the reality
    This is the book that brought home a dimension of slavery to me that I had never understood: the psychological repercussions of someone presuming that they can own someone else. Perhaps it had to be written by a woman, who was regarded as the sexual property of a horrible man.

    The story of how she escapes and frustrates her "owner" is indeed enthralling, a triumph of human will in the worst adversity. She hid under the slanted roof of her mothers house for years, permanently injuring her back and watching he children grow up from afar. It is such a moving story that I imagined turning it into a play, with the narrator reminising of her life while hidden in that cramped space.

    As this is a memoire, the characters in it are very very real, all too human and without the black-and-white quality of too many novels on this bizarre twist of American history. While the writing style is so superb that it had to have been edited by an expert writer, the story and voice are so vivid that it must be real.

    I have given this book to literally dozens of friends, and almost to a one they have marvelled at the depth of the story. This is the best and most complete account of an aberration in American history of which we all must bear some sense of responsibilty.

    Get this: it cannot disappoint....more info

  • Dover Edition
    Concerning this edition (the book is a must read)... Dover's thrift editions are just that--thrifty. The text is close together and the overall readability of the edition is fair. It works, but I'd like to see Oxford or Penguin make a "classic" edition with a scholary introduction, footnoting and contextual information like 19th century reviews, etc... A good edition, needs improvement, but then it wouldn't have a "thrifty" price!...more info
  • Very Valuable
    I am a slow to moderate reader, but read this in 3 days.

    Jacobs compiled something of which I did know existed, a real first hand account of slavery. She depicts the plight of her life in North Carolina, and also that of fellow slaves.

    The depictions of the owners shows some to be generous and others to be horrible, such as when her mistress makes a point to spit in all the dinner pots when they are empty as a means to detract the slaves from scraping anything of them together to eat themselves. When I first read this I was thinking, 'what's a little spit to a hungry malnourished person?' but to think of the contrast of Southern gentility with the effort this horrible bitch put into dragging out the most horrendous mucous she could just to detract another that she claimed from nourishment is beyond me.

    Furthermore, there is another scene where Jacobs' aunt passes away, and the mistress, whom the aunt raised and raised the children of, does not know what she will do without her sleeping outside her door any longer. The inhumanity and the lengths that happened over 3 generations of ownership is a must know for all Americans.

    I recommend this book highly and hope that this review does bring it into new hands....more info
  • For a true account of slave life, look no futher!
    I just finished reading this book the other day and I really enjoyed reading it. It's basically an autobiography of the author under the name Linda Brent (obviously she doesn't want to use the real names of other characters, and she changes her own name in the book in accordance), who was a slave until I believe her late 20s (maybe early 30s if I'm not mistaken). First published in 1861 it really has a charming 19th century writing style to it that's more simplistic than most things you find from this time period.

    This book really makes you realize how extreme the struggle of a slave woman is and makes you appreciate them more for it. She doesn't dwell too much on any topic and keeps an even progression throughout the whole story. Most important though, she makes you care about who she cares about and despise the people she dislikes. It's a very emotional book and quite a harrowing tale....more info
  • Compelling Account, Easily Read
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl / 0-674-44746-8

    It is amusing to note that Jacobs' autobiography was published just prior to Stowe's famous Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe's work, for all it's virtues, is (to modern eyes, at least) painfully didactic, frequently breaking the narrative to tell the reader what they are meant to take from a scene. Jacobs' Incidents, however, is written freely and easily, relating the salient points of her life, rarely breaking narrative to tell the reader what to think. It is merely presented, as is, and is immensely more readable than other contemporary works. Unfortunately, Jacobs' work was passed over as too salacious - she actually includes men in her novel, and not all her encounters are strictly 'forced', in the sense that some liaisons are contracted for convenience and safety, if not always for love.

    Amusingly, these "flaws" in Jacobs' character make her narrative that more interesting and insightful to read. It is relevant and worth knowing that slaves sometimes felt obligated to please certain men in order to secure safety or basic necessities. Jacobs determination to survive and thrive within the system that oppresses her causes us to admire her and to enjoy her narrative as we hope for some kind of happiness and success in her life of few options, none of them good. If you have any interest at all in slavery or the American Civil War, I highly recommend this narrative....more info
  • simple and straightforward
    What I particularly like about this book is how easy it is to read through. The southern vernacular dialect is sparse and not used by Harriet/Linda in the book. Further, the retelling of the horrors of slavery are not overdramatized -- it's not necessary to get the reader's attention. The everyday nature of these attocities are evident in the straightforward reporting of the events.

    The dynamics of the household are fascinating when you read of the jealous mistresses who are infuriated at their husbands' infidelities under their roofs and how they mistreat the slave women who are subjected to their husband's unwelcomed advances.

    Harriet's Grandmother is a remarkable woman of her day -- she became free and through hard work bought many of her own family members. She was a highly respected member of the community lending money to whites and blacks alike.

    Survival and freedom for herself and her children is Harriet's objective and her unyielding determination is inspiring.

    This story tells how difficult it was to be a woman in the south and particularly an attractive woman in slavery...more info
  • Wonderful narrative
    This is the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, who was born into slavery. In her youth, she had a good master and mistress and was treated well and taught to read. But when her mistress died, she was passed on to the daughter as an inheritance and the daughter married an older man who was as evil as most of the other slave holders. She witnessed his cruelty first-hand, and when she reached puberty, he decided to "have" her and sire a new "stock" of slaves through her. She avoided his advances. Having been taught Christianity and moral values, she did not want to spoil herself. Finally, to avoid him, she allowed herself to be impregnated by a kindly neighboring slave holder who at least treated her decent. Her master, enraged, became obsessed with controlling her. He refused to sell her or her children to anyone for any price, as he knew that her friends would gladly purchase her for the purpose of freeing her. Finally, she ran away, but couldn't escape the slave hunters in the area, so she hid in the attic space of her grandmother's shed, a dark hole only 6 feet long and 3 feet high at the pitch, and stayed there for six years awaiting her chance to escape.

    This book is a fascinating, first-hand look at what it was like to be a slave. It also brought home to me the fact that even though we have come a long way as a society, this kind of evil still exists. We no longer have slavery, but we certainly have an over-abundance of people who want to control and abuse and denigrate. The same attitudes that existed with the slave holders still exist today. People who think that they are superior to someone else for whatever reason--race, religion, financial circumstance, background, clothing, education--you name it, someone is bigoted against it. And the evil of trying to control each other is just as bad. We have a proliferation of people who rape, beat, abuse, and molest people who are weaker than they are. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Although I was aware of the kinds of things that happened in slavery, this book presented someone's first-hand experience with it, and I cheered our heroine on as she plotted and planned to acquire her freedom....more info

  • Component forces of the Civil War Revolution
    Incidents is typically viewed as an outstanding example of Black feminist resistance to slavery as well as a protest against the fugitive slave laws. Yet, it can also be seen as an assessment of the forces available to eliminate slavery as a whole, part of a debate that unfolded in the years leading up to the civil war about what force could possibly overthrow slavery whose ascendancy not only over the South, but over the entire nation seemed unstoppable when this book was written.

    Its history is a testament to the growth of racism among American literary "experts" and historians. While Harriet Jacobs was celebrated in her time as the author of this book and used this celebrity to advance her struggle to advance the lives of refugee slaves during the Civil War and of freed slaves after the Civil War, the racism that followed the imposition of Jim Crow Segregation and the US grab for colonies in Asia and Latin America in the late 19th and 20th Centuries led to the memory of her work being extinguished. By the 1950s and 1960s the scholarly world had come to believe this book was a fiction written by Lydia Maria Child. No one familiar with Child could think that she would do such a thing.

    We owe Jean Fagan Yellin and her collaborators the honor of resurrecting Harriet Jacob's authorship and career. In a startling masterpiece of research ,Yellin's team documented the truth of everything narrated in this book. We are also enriched by Yellin's recent biography entitled Harriet Jacobs.

    Besides the usual, Incidents represents a catalog of different ways to escape or lessen the impact of slavery. We have the noble faithful servent in the person of Linda Brent's mother who buys herself with the aid of white who honors her position, we have attempts to escape through the sexual favors of a white man, we have people buying their way out of slavery, we have violent and non violent escapes. We also see Linda Brent's resistence and the success of her clandestine life and later her escapes to Philiadephia, then New York, then England, as a result not only of her individual bravery, character, and devotion to her people and her family and her honor, but of the existence of resources beyond the slave and Black community that can free not only the individual slave but put an end to slavery. We also have the racism that made Jacobs feel not totally free in the North.

    This is the crucial place Incidents belongs. The publications (Uncle Tom was first published as a serial in an antislavery newspaper and later published as a book) of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1850 and 1852 unleashed at the dialog opened among contemporary African American texts about how to eliminate slavery in response to Stowe's great work. Harriet Beecher Stowe had recommended the Christic experience of evangelical Christianity in Uncle Tom, Martin Delany recommended the reculturation of Blacks by a bourgeois independent state's aristocratic and cultural leadership, William Wells Brown pointed to the ship of capitalism coming the vanquish the slave ships.

    Jacob's text enters this debate with an array of forces within the African American slave and free community, as well as within the Southern white community, as well as the Northern and even international community that can be used to defeat slavery. We have the slaves themselves debating, organizing, and resisting. We have freed Blacks North and South helping. We have whites in the South itself helping, if inadequately. We have supporters of women's rights and opponents of slavery among the women of the North. We have the international opponents of slavery in Britain and beyond.

    Jacobs highlights not only her own incredibly courageous resistance to slavery, but to the array of forces available to fight slavery. In the weeks and months after this book was published in 1861, those same forces did in fact overthrow slavery and crush it forever more.

    This is a stirring book written by an articulate and educated writer. Indeed contrary to what is said elsewhere, even narratives written or told by semiliterate African Americans who escaped slavery never contained dialect, but were written in clear standard English. Indeed, scholars have noted that where Jacobs tries to reproduce Black English spoken by unacculturated slaves, she had to fall back on the conventions of theatrical stereotypical imitations of Black English, rather than reproduce real Black English. She had been reared in a standard English environment, had escaped and lived and functioned among an even more stardard English environment, and by the time she wrote this book, almost 20 years after she had escaped from slavery, she was actually unfamiliar with real Black English!

    Not only was Jacobs literate, but she was apparently very familiar with contemporary Womens or sentimental novels exemplified by Uncle Tom and Susan Warner's Wide Wide World.
    Jacobs had spent much time in her bondage in Edenton, reading. Later, in Rochester New York, Jacobs ran a anti-slavery reading room associated with Frederick Douglass's North Star. For nearly a decade in New York, Jacobs worked as a house keeper and nanny for one of the most popular journalists in the country. She also knew and received support from her boss's estranbed sister, the widely popular journalist and fiction writer Sara Payson Willis Parton, known by her pen name Fannie Fern. In Ruth Hall, Parton's famous novel a roman A clef biography, Fanny Fern, there isa chacter obviously modeled after Harriet Jacobs. Jacob's maintained an extensive correspondence with some of leading activists in the womens and antislavery movements of her time in both the United States and Great Britain.

    Incidents follows the styles and conventions of the sentimental novels so well that for decades many believed that it was actually a novel written by a white female sentimental author, not by a escaped slave. The Sentimental novels whose central work is to create sympathy usually signfied by the reader's tears, by the suffering, the righteousness, and ultimately the lack of physical power in a wicked world for its heroines and heroes. To that extent, they reflected the lack of social power and opportunity for liberation of 19th Century women.
    Jacobs has a totally different approach, remarkable given these conventions. Susan Warner, author of the first big blockbuster novel, Wide Wide World, could make a day in the life of a 10 year old girl seem like a life of torture. Yet, Jacobs forgo the obvious, easy opportunity to dwell on Harriet Jacobs's undeniably extreme suffering hiding in an attick. Instead the book focuses on her spirit of resistance, the availability of allies, and the real possibilities for her deliverence through her own power. Rather than the isolated slave mother locked in an attic, Jacob's Linda Brent is a person who is helped in her struggle by white and black, free and slave in Edenton, helped by sailors and antislavery activists up and done the US coast and in Canada, and helped by people as far away as England. Rather than a victim who deserves our tears, Jacobs shows how there are forces to help her fight for freedom, and she wins.

    If in the weeks and months in 1860 and early 1861 when this book was written the slave power seemed unstoppable. Yet, the power, the ability to act, the ability to defeat slavery shown in Jacob's book, discloses the forces and the will that would abolish slavery forever in a few brief years.
    ...more info
  • A Woman's Life in Slavery
    Harriet Jacobs' (1813-1897) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" is one of the few accounts of Southern slavery written by a woman. The book was published in 1861 through the efforts of Maria Child, an abolitionist who edited the book and wrote an introduction to it. The book had its origin in a series of letters Jacobs wrote between 1853 and 1861 to her friends in the abolitionist movement, notably a woman named Amy Post. Historically, there was some doubt about the authorship of the book and about the authenticity of the incidents it records. These doubts have largely been put to rest by the discovery of the letters.

    The book indeed has elements of a disguise and of a novel. Jacobs never uses her real name but calls herself instead "Linda Brent." The other characters in the book are also given pseudonyms. Jacobs tells us in the Preface to the book (signed "Linda Brent") that she changed names in order to protect the privacy of indiduals but that the incidents recounted in the narrative are "no fiction".

    Jacobs was born in slave rural North Carolina. As a young girl, she learned to read and write, which was highly rare among slaves. At about the age of 11 she was sent to live as a slave to a doctor who also owned a plantation, called "Dr. Flint" in the book.

    Jacobs book describes well the cruelties of the "Peculiar Institution -- in terms of its beatings, floggings, and burnings, overwork, starvation, and dehumanization. It focuses as well upon the selling and wrenching apart of families that resulted from the commodification of people in the slave system. But Jacobs' book is unique in that it describes first-hand the sexual indignities to which women were subjected in slavery. (Other accounts, such as those of Frederick Douglass, were written by men.) The book is also unusual in that Jacobs does not portray herself entirely as a hero but describes the nature of the steps she took to avoid becoming the sexual slave of Flint. Thus, when Flint subjected her to repeated sexual advances from the time Jacobs reached the age of 16, she tried to avoid him by beginning an affair with a white, single attorney with whom she had two children. When Flint's advances persisted, Jacobs formed the determination to try to secure her freedom.

    The bulk of the book describes how Jacobs hid precariously in a cramped attic for seven years waiting for the opporunity to secure her freedom. There are also accounts of her prior attempts to leave slavery, including a particularly harrowing account of several days in a place aptly named "Snaky Swamp."

    Jacobs describes her relationship with her grandmother, a free black woman who was probably the major inspiration of her life. She also describes well her love and concern for her children, conceived through the liasion with the white attorney.

    This book offers a rare perspective on American slavery as it affected women. It is also a testament, I think, to the value of literacy and knowledge as an instrument for winning and preserving free human life. Although this story is not pretty, it is a testament to human persistence in the face of adversity and to the precious character of human freedom....more info

  • It has given me a bold new incite of Afican Slaves
    "Incidents In the Life Of a Slave Girl," has given me a new incite into the lives of African American female slaves, and the institution of slavery it self. I have often neglected to read about the lives that slaves lead during that time period, because I often felt uncomfortable about the subject of slavery. But this book has shown me that my ancestor did what they could with what the had. I recommend this book for all peolple,particularly African American females, because this book gives you an example of what American female slaves had to contend with, along with the strength and courage that they had just to live. Thank You...more info
  • Very Valuable
    I am a slow to moderate reader, but read this in 3 days.

    Jacobs compiled something of which I did know existed, a real first hand account of slavery. She depicts the plight of her life in North Carolina, and also that of fellow slaves.

    The depictions of the owners shows some to be generous and others to be horrible, such as when her mistress makes a point to spit in all the dinner pots when they are empty as a means to detract the slaves from scraping anything of them together to eat themselves. When I first read this I was thinking, 'what's a little spit to a hungry malnourished person?' but to think of the contrast of Southern gentility with the effort this horrible bitch put into dragging out the most horrendous mucous she could just to detract another that she claimed from nourishment is beyond me.

    Furthermore, there is another scene where Jacobs' aunt passes away, and the mistress, whom the aunt raised and raised the children of, does not know what she will do without her sleeping outside her door any longer. The inhumanity and the lengths that happened over 3 generations of ownership is a must know for all Americans.

    I recommend this book highly and hope that this review does bring it into new hands....more info
  • A gripping story.
    I read the paperback edition of this book, edited by L. Maria Child with a new introduction by Walter Teller. First, I'll say that I'm not quite even finished reading the book but felt compelled to write about it. Her story gripped my heart and wrapped around it so tightly that I felt I could see her face. It was as if she had parted the veil of the past to say "don't forget me and what happened to me." My heart ached along with her in her many sufferings. I felt I was really there, in her world. Someday, God willing for us both, I should be honored to make her acquaintence....more info
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: This book is diffficult to read because of the horrible reminders of
    the wretched life of American slaves. The book is so
    well written, beautiful prose, detailed descriptions
    of rememberances that I am sure were difficult to
    relive. I highly recommend this wonderful book to any
    one....more info
  • Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl
    Well written and an easy read of a sad time in our history....more info
  • So many things said already...
    I have read a lot of the past reviews and I consider this story as part of the American narrative that can't be dismissed. Yes, it sounds unbelivable when we look at the lives that we lead today but this was reality to so many people in the past. It takes the life of a black woman living in slavery and presents in interesting story that reads a lot like fiction. It is so easy to foget that it was real. Traditionaly women have been left out of history, especially black women, slave women... This is an unseen element of history that has to start being seen. I don't think that I could recomend a better book to read....more info
  • Captivating, Monette in Weldon, NC
    This memoir was absolutely enthralling. And yet, I am left with oxymoronic feelings. Reading about the horrors of slavery through the experiences of this slave girl was interesting-as these type of details should be told. At the same time, it was like looking at an accident-what you experienced was imprinted on your mind in an incredibly horrid way. In all the story was extraordinary and despite my feelings, theses types of truths must be shared far more often in this venue and in our national curricula as well....more info
  • Knowing there's more to life
    The thing that struck me so personally was how this woman knew in her deepest part that the way she was forced to live was not right and that she would push the limits of all possibility to achieve what she knew in her heart was possible. If, like me (a white, middleclass male), you ever deeply felt there is more to life than what is routinely offered, you will identify at this level. Being freed was not enough. She spent the second half of her life working to free and educate other slaves. That is true enlightenment.

    Her writing is sparse, eloquent and heartfelt. I could blather on and on about how wonderful this book is. If you are unsure about how much racism has wounded the spirit of African-Americans, this book will lay some foundation for that understanding....more info

  • Excellent for analysis of intersection of race and gender
    My theory is that the tension between gender ideology and racial realities is demonstrated by the way escaped bondswoman Harriet Jacobs must tell her tale to pro-abolition Whites in her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself (writing as Linda Brent) (edited by Lydia Maria Francis Child) (introduction by Jean Fagan Yellin) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1987) (1861). At the time Jacobs wrote, popular culture defined femininity based on chastity and child rearing. But Jacobs was writing about experiences of sexual assault not encountered by most White women. In order to establish credibility with that audience, Jacobs goes to great pains to describe both her attempts to prevent her owner from raping her and her desire to care for her children....more info
  • A priceless legacy...
    Born in 1813, "Linda Brent" (as Harriet Jacobs renames herself) lived to play the role of nurse - as a free woman - during the Civil War. The long journey that took her there began on the day she realized, as a six-year-old who had just become motherless, that she was a slave.

    The first mistress she served treated little Linda kindly. When the girl was 12 years old, and her mistress died, Linda and her family hoped the will might leave her free. Instead, it bequeathed her to the dead mistress's 5-year-old niece. This placed Linda under the control of Dr. Flint, her new little mistress's father, and his selfish, cruel wife. The slaves of the Flint household were always hungry, often beaten; and, if female and attractive, quite likely to bear Dr. Flint's offspring.

    Linda Brent refused to submit to her master's advances. Instead she bore two children to another white man, in hopes her lover might buy and free her - which couldn't happen unless Dr. Flint, on behalf of his daughter, proved willing to sell. But Dr. Flint was anything else but willing to part with his uncooperative property. So began a long battle of wits and wills, one that for Linda had the highest stakes imaginable.

    This well documented true story of a woman's life as property had trouble finding a publisher in its own era. Even today it's not easy reading. Unflinchingly honest even when she's recounting her own errors and weaknesses, Harriet Jacobs leaves the world a priceless legacy in these memoirs of her battle for freedom.

    --Reviewed by Nina M. Osier, author of ROUGH RIDER...more info

  • Love it!
    The story is about the life of a little slave girl who the master is trying to make a mistress out of and is continously trying to sleep with. The girl eventually escapes to the north after a very long period of agony in which she had to hide out in a space for over a year barely moving, and even after escaping her master still comes up north looking for her. I love the book because first of all it was written by a woman slave and it was an autobiography, therefore she is speaking from first-hand experience. She not only had to go through racism but being a woman made some people view her as an even weaker person. In this day and age, I don't have to go through many of the things she did, but reading this book helped me to understand older people view of many aspects of life now....more info
  • I truly enjoyed it!
    I really loved this book. I read it for a college English class, and I was blown away by Jacob's writing and personal journey. She protrayed herself as a woman of dignity, courage, and strength, and I just cannot say enough about it. It is a must read!...more info
  • fact or fiction
    Some say this isnt true, after reading it seems that some is fiction. Especially extensive quotes years after the events from someone who coulnt read or write at the time the events occured and would have no way of recording them for future use. Somewhat drawn out. Keep looking there may be something better out there on the subject....more info
  • It shows life of a slave women from a slaves point of view!!
    Incidents in the life of a slave girl...more info
  • What a Intriging book
    I had to read it for school and we had weeks to coplete it, of course I waited till last minute, which usually get me in trouble but this particular book was so eaasy to read. It grabed my attention right away and I couldn't put the dam thing down until I was done!...more info
  • Great!
    Intended to convince northerners -- particularly women -- of the rankness of Slavery, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl presents a powerful autobiography and convincing writing that reads like a gripping novel but is organized and argued like an essay.

    Incidents follows the "true story" (its authenticity is doubted in some places) of Linda [Jacobs uses a pseudonym] who is born into the shackles of slavery and yearns for freedom. She lives with a depraved slave master who dehumanizes her, and a mistress who mistreats her. As the novel progresses, Linda becomes increasingly starved of freedom and resolves to escape, but Linda finds that even escaping presents its problems.

    But Incidents is more than just a gripping narration of one woman's crusade for freedom, and is rather an organized attack on Slavery, intended to convince even the most apathetic of northerners. And in this too, Incidents succeeds. The writing is clear, and Jacobs' use of rhetorical strategy to preserve integrity is astonishing.

    Well written, convincing, entertaining, Incidents is an amazing book....more info

  • Really for all ages, about slavery
    I used an excerpt from this book included in a women's literary anthology used in my women's literature class. It was one of the many classes' favorite reads. For their final they were allowed to concentrate on one class assignment, write a documented essay, and from it, give an oral presentation with visuals....several successfully replicated, small scale, the yard and house with attic where Jacobs describes as being hidden for years... an incredible true story for everyone of all ages!...more info
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: This book is diffficult to read because of the horrible reminders of
    the wretched life of American slaves. The book is so
    well written, beautiful prose, detailed descriptions
    of rememberances that I am sure were difficult to
    relive. I highly recommend this wonderful book to any
    one....more info
  • Black History at it's Finest
    A harrowing tale that stays with you. The fact that is is a true story, meticulously researched and documented, chills your spine. A true indelible black mark on our history, this tale of murder and desperation. Harriet represents the depths a woman will go to to escape a desperate, desolate no-win situation, only to find herself in a deeper one. It is also an account of the level of depravity we had sunk to as a society, such little regard for the black human being, placing their importance somewhere below cattle or sheep. An important and intregal part of the study of black history....more info
  • The evils of slavery are shown firsthand in this account
    Harriet Jacobs offers us a truthful view inside the secrets of slavery. This practice was dehumanizing and should be identified as the horrible practice that it is.

    Jacobs tells us that one of the most painful aspects of slavery was the way slave families could be sold and parents would never know where their adolescent children had been sold as slaves. The needs of the White slave owners came first and the sick children of slaves had to be left alone to tend to field labor and domestic chores in the Plantation home. Jacobs points out that White women were hardened to the cries of Negro workers when their children were sold away.

    Jacobs also tells us of the beatings that slave workers often received from their masters. Jacobs admits that sex between masters and slaves was not uncommon and that children born with white fathers and black mothers were cruely treated by the master's wife and were usually some of the first children sold off the plantation.

    Harriet Jacobs thinks that White slave owners introduced Christianity to the Negro slaves so that they could be taught not to murder their White masters. Christianity turned out to be a philosophical and spiritual gift to the Negro slaves who lost their culture when they were shipped from Africa. Slaves soon learned that the Christianity practiced by White slave owners allowed for murder, beating, and all forms of degradation and shame to the slaves justified by Biblical Scripture. The slaves had to learn how to take from Christianity a spiritual gift to give them strength while recognizing that White Christians used the Bible to justify their violence.

    She quotes from the wonderful old spiritual song: "Ole Satan's church is here below; Up to God's free church I hope to go."

    Books such as this reveal the false claim that the Negro race is inherently inferior and thus requires the White race to dominate. Jacobs had to hide her intelligence or risk possible beating and isolation.

    The book tells a story of her life and her escape from slavery after being hidden if a secret compartment within a house for many years. Slave narratives such as this give first hand testimony to the cruelty of slavery and the false beliefs that perpetuated it for hundreds of years....more info
  • Unexpected
    I had no idea that this book would be as compelling as it was. Really, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise. I bought it because it was required reading for a class, but ended up liking it... Who knew?...more info


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