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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  19,884 ratings  ·  1,182 reviews
The true story of an individual's struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradati ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 9th 2001 by Dover Publications (first published January 25th 1861)
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Roots by Alex HaleyUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher StoweWench by Dolen Perkins-ValdezThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
Books about American slavery
5th out of 165 books — 207 voters
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Best African American Books
38th out of 514 books — 611 voters


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Community Reviews

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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 ...more
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.
Sarah
Jan 14, 2008 Sarah rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mothers
Recommended to Sarah by: Valerie Van Horn
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 sa ...more
Flannery
Feb 24, 2011 Flannery marked it as to-read-and-have  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Cheryl
This book was first published in 1861 and reprinted in the 1970s. Its accuracy was initially doubted (and if we're being honest, some still doubt it today). Scholars doubted that it was written by a slave. Well, thank goodness for Harvard University Press publishing of the 1980s. And for Jean Fagan Yellin, Harriet Jacobs' biographer, who dug up proof of the authenticity of this autobiography (and story) through letters and documents. I only regret not having the 1987 Harvard University Press edi ...more
Stephani
Dec 14, 2007 Stephani rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to learn about slavery from the "house negro" POV
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 m
...more
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
...more
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 childr
...more
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 slaveowner ...more
Barbara Mitchell
This book is a free book available for Kindle and as there are so few memoirs of slaves written by themselves, I couldn't resist. You most likely know it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write and those who did learn usually kept that fact secret. This slave, however, as a house slave had access to reading materials and read especially newspapers and the Bible all her life to give pertinent news to other slaves.

Her name was Linda. She was owned by the very young daughter of a doctor, but
...more
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 an
...more
Kay Prime
Jan 02, 2011 Kay Prime rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ALL americans, african americans especially, anyone else interested in american history or slavery
It is my understanding that slave narratives were written to aid the abolitionist in persuading white northerners to join the movement by illustrating the horrors of slavery. Considering the era and her audience, I realize it was necessary for Jacobs' language to bring attention to such vulgarities without actually being vulgar. Personally, I felt her portrayal was too tame when it came to describing the 'brutality and injustice inflicted on female slaves that trampled on their humanity and thei ...more
Adrianna
Feb 03, 2010 Adrianna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teenagers and Adults
Recommended to Adrianna by: Mrs. Joan Barrows
I had read this narrative before, at least three different times, but the repeat reading only brings more of the details to the reader's attention. Since the previous readings were so long ago, I didn't remember too many of the details of the narrative. It was like I was reading Jacobs' story for the first time. Harriet Ann Jacobs is very deliberate in her language and the way she acts as supplicator and judge. The complexity of the language is often overshadowed by the "flowery" writing of the ...more
Erika
I recently read Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass and this book for a history class, to compare them, and see the difference between the point of view of a female and a male slave.

The male perspective was more violent, I guess, with more descriptions of torture and punishment... and hatred. This one by Harriet Jacobs was not really like that. She had to endure many horrible things, but her descriptions were not really as tough. Douglass described to visualize them, Jacobs only kind of
...more
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"
...more
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.
Karen
What I learned from this book was to never give up! Harriet Jacobs, a slave a plantation thinks it's time to run away when her "owner" starts to take a sexual interest in her. She hides in the attic of her gradma's cottage for about 7 years(a space about 6ft. x 3ft., also she had to lay down in order to fit!) before she finds an opportunity to escape. She literally watched her kids grow up through the cracks of the attic. I just don't know if I have it in me.

I said that I would like to give the
...more
Anna Parkinson
Having read Frederick Douglass's autobiography, I am convinced that the way a story is told depends truly on the story teller. As Douglass tells of his experience of slavery from the male's perspective, Jacobs presents to her readers an opportunity to see what slavery was like for women and children. As a woman, Jacobs's cry is not only for freedom from the bondage of slavery, but for freedom to obtain what is known as "The Cult of True Womanhood," an ideology that elevated middle-class, white w ...more
Leslie
4½ stars. Powerful autobiography of Harriet Jacobs; this story of her life growing up as a slave and her eventual escape into the North is enhanced by the matter-of-fact manner which she uses to describe some terrible conditions. By matter-of-fact, I don't mean that she is accepting of these conditions - she speaks passionately about the injustices, cruelty, and hypocrisy she sees both in the south and the north - but she doesn't dramatize when she is describing them. I found this factual tone t ...more
Svitlana
This by far is my favorite slave narrative! Some of the major themes portrayed include self-assertion, family bond, unity, dependence, resistance, equality, and identity. What I have learned from this book is to never give up, because regardless of the circumstances if you continue to fight there will always be hope, since you, yourself are the last hope and it is up to you to make it last. Linda is a symbol of a strong female who never gives up; always keeps moving forward to accomplish her dre ...more
Thom Swennes
Remarkably abhorrent! I have recently read quite a few accounts of American slave life and the Civil War era and I must say this is one of the best. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs is a remarkable work about a positive detestable system. The daily horror of life with no rights, prospects or safety positively drips from every page. The horror of seeing your family torn away and being unable to prevent it seems to be the most dreaded fate. Oddly enough most of the true stor ...more
Lataun
Dec 08, 2008 Lataun rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys a true story
I have read a lot of true stories this fall about women who are oppressed. I think this one has affected me the most. This book is the epitomy of service and sacrifice given by a mother.

A lot of the books I've read lately on this subject have occurred in other countries and I can kind of distance myself from the atrocities that take place. This book was about slavery in my own country and I am embarassed that this happened here. How could we be so ignorant and cruel and believe that it was ok?

p
...more
Geoff Sebesta
I've been reading a lot of slave narratives lately, and it is really bringing home to me the absolute lunacy of slavery.

Slave narratives were an entire genre of nonfiction two hundred years ago. This is one of the better ones I've read. It's very lucid and well-composed, which makes sense, because the author was locked in a crawlspace for seven years while trying to escape her "owners." She had some time to get her thoughts down in order.

I'm reading this for research for a script I'm writing. M
...more
Michelle
Michelle Kwait
Multicultural

Summary:

An auto-biographical account under the pseudonym "Linda", Jacobs writes of her life as a slave in 19th century America. Escaping the hands of her abusive master, Dr. Flint, Linda hides in plain sight for seven years, in an attempt to help free her children (sold to their father, who frees them). The Flints search for Linda and her children, seeking to recapture them under the premise that the contract is invalid, on the grounds that Linda belongs to their daugh
...more
N.T. Embe
Sep 22, 2011 N.T. Embe rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in a woman's accounts of slavery, and what she suffered.
Recommended to N.T. Embe by: American Literature of the 19th Century (Class)
Shelves: education
For the most part, stories like this are not ones that I read willingly. I am not someone who follows after those persecuted and who have gone through many hardships that are based on reality because, like everyone else, I have enough hardships and things in my own life that I have to deal with. I read usually to get away from reality, and to expand the creativity and horizons of my imaginative mind. Nevertheless, I will give credit where credit is due, and although I did not love this story--fo ...more
Gerald
This book was absolutely AMAZING! I have been recommending this book to all of my friends and family. 'Incidents in the life of a slave girl' makes my heart ache for the suffering my ancestors had to endure for generations. This book should have been an epic movie by now. There are those who are skeptics because of the book's fluidity. But, if those who have read the book, had taken the time to read the Editor's notes, they would've read that Mother Jacobs had help with the finished product. Als ...more
 Sammie
I read Uncle Tom's cabin and a few others some fiction and some not but to be honest I loved this one most of all. This was a true story and to be perfectly honest we never discussed as a class in High school Slavery. yes we went over when slavery started and who ended it, but we never stopped to view these people as more than what they were then. When I began reading this book I could not put it down, I was done within two days. Here is a woman or girl trying to be free from a heartless man who ...more
Tiffany
I love this book. I have loved it since the first time I read it in my African-American history survey course as a sophomore in college and can't believe it is not cited more often as a primary source in analyses of the slave experience. This book can be read on so many different levels. When it was first assigned to me, it was meant to be read in relationship to Frederick Douglass's My Bondage and My Freedom, to help us compare and contrast the experience of slavery for men and women. But re-re ...more
Laura
This book blew me away. I thought I had an understanding of what slavery in the U.S was like but this was so eye-opening. Why is this not required reading in high school??
Faith Spinks
Linda Brent was a former slave in North Carolina who suffered a great deal at the hands of her master. Eventually she escaped to the north though true freedom was still a battle away and a long time in coming.

This is a biography written by a woman who was not well educated and yet her story is so incredible that it is impossible to stop reading. Her story of what she endured as a slave and what she went through to secure her and her children's freedom leaves you wondering how people can ever be
...more
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500 Great Books B...: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Harriet Jacobs 1 3 Jul 26, 2014 03:53PM  
Love this Book 15 105 Aug 06, 2013 09:36AM  
  • Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself
  • My Bondage and My Freedom
  • The Classic Slave Narratives
  • Coming of Age in Mississippi
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • Up from Slavery
  • Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol
  • Clotel: or, The President's Daughter
  • A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
  • Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South
  • The Souls of Black Folk
  • When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America
  • Dust Tracks on a Road
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
  • The Marrow of Tradition
  • Our Nig
  • Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market
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Harriet Ann Jacobs, usually wrote under the name Harriet Jacobs but also used the pseudonym Linda Brent.

Harriet was born in Edenton, North Carolina to Daniel Jacobs and Delilah. Her father was a mulatto carpenter and slave owned by Dr. Andrew Knox. Her mother was a mulatto slave owned by John Horniblow, a tavern owner. Harriet inherited the status of both her parents as a slave by birth. She was
...more
More about Harriet Jacobs...
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl & Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Two Memoirs of Notable African-Americans During the Nineteenth Century Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: A Slavery Narrative: 3 (Black History Series) Harriet Jacobs: Critical Perspectives Past and Present Douglass and Jacobs: The Autobiographies Of Two Escaped Slaves The Classic Slave Narratives

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“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.” 23 likes
“There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment” 12 likes
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