Tina Hayes's Reviews > Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
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's review
Feb 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, kindle, non-fiction, bio-autobio
Read from January 22 to February 04, 2012

"Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" by Harriet Ann Jacobs is the autobiography of a slave struggling to build a life for herself and her children. Obviously, since this book was written in 1858, the era of the Fugitive Slave Act, and even though she was a free woman, she changed her name and the others in her book, to keep her identity hidden; that would have been necessary to keep herself and children safe from people who wouldn't have thought twice about murdering them to keep her silent.

Reading the book, you'll get to know Harriet Jacobs as Linda Brent. She takes the reader into the antebellum South and shows the horrors of day to day life as a slave. Her grandmother was a well-respected free black woman who made baked goods for the white ladies of the small community, and Linda performed her slave labor in the home of a doctor and his family. She was never subjected to the horrific physical punishments so common at the time (which she discusses, and points out several cases of people she knows who are thus abused), but as a woman, what is more terrifying than the constant knowledge your "Master" could forever seperate you from your children and family? Or legally kill you and your children with no consequences? Linda declines marriage to a free black man she loves because any children would "follow the condition of the mother", and she also didn't want to put him through the torment of seeing her violated at the whim of Dr. Flint. Flint makes her life even more hellish when she refuses his sordid advances, more so after she has children by another man, until she decides she must escape. Imagine the inhumane ordeal she went through, hidden day and night in her grandmother's shed, in a space barely large enough for her to move in, for seven long years.

Even after she fled north, her trouble was far from over. Ms. Jacob's autobiography is a historic record of her lifetime, one which should be read in classrooms to educate people, and to show how determination can cause lifechanging miracles. Her intellegence and cunning saved her from her hellish existence, and let her children breath freedom.

I found myself totally caught up in the experience as I read Ms Jacobs' words, my eyes moving faster over the pages as I worried over what would happen next. I highly recommend reading this autobiography, for the historic detail as well as the heroic story of her life.

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