Posted in Autobiography

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

This book is the biography of former slave Harriet Jacobs. Harriet was born in North Carolina 1813. She was a mulatto. Female mulattos may not have been set to the fields. But they had a more demeaning life as sex slaves.

For years Harriet was unaware she was a slave. She was blessed in that she was owned by a kind mistress who looked after once her mother died. Once the mistress died she was left the property of her mistress’ niece who was a child at that point. She spent her childhood through young adult life evading her sexually predatory master.

In desperation, she turns to seemingly “sympathetic” senator and bears him two children foolishly believing that her master would sell her once he realized someone else had beaten him to the punch, for lack of better expression. The master tried various means to get Harriet to give herself up to him; he even threatened to sell her children; but to no avail. Her master decides to send she and her children to the plantation. This and this alone pushes Harriet to carry through with her planned escape.

I have to give the woman props for her escape plan. She definitely knew the value of patience. She went into hiding. The master incarcerated her children and brother. At this point, the children’s father purchased the children and her brother under their great-grandmother’s (a free woman) name. Harriet realized that she would have to wait some time before she could leave without being tracked. She hid in the tiny space above her grandmother’s shed for seven years.

To throw off suspicion, she wrote letters and had them posted from New York and Massachusetts knowing that her master would intercept those letters. Meanwhile the children’s father sent Harriet’s daughter Ellen up North supposedly to get education.

After seven years, Harriet escapes to Philly then ends up in New York as a nanny to a British woman. As it turns out, Ellen ends up a maid to her aunt and has yet to begin her education; but as Harriet’s grandmother actually “owns” Ellen, she sends her daughter to a boarding school in Massachusetts. Harriet has several close encounters with her master. Unfortunately even when he dies his family still comes after Harriet. At last, Harriet’s new employer is able to purchase her freedom once and for all.

Ok! Let me explain the rating. The story was well written. It was poignant. I couldn’t put it down. I gave it a D because the subject matter. It was a sad, unpleasant tale. Slavery is a blight upon our country’s history. I’m glad that I read the book. I highly recommend it. But it was not something that I “like.” I hope that makes sense. This is a value read for teenagers.

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