Harriet Ann Jacobs

Harriet Ann Jacobs was an African-American writer who escaped from slavery and became an abolitionist speaker and reformer. Jacobs' single work, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, was one of the first autobiographical narratives about the struggle for freedom by female slaves and an account of the sexual harassment and abuse they endured. Published as a novel, it is based on events of her own life.
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'The degradations, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe.' Harriet Jacobs was born a slave in the American South and went on to write one of the most extraordinary slave narratives. First published pseudonymously in 1861, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl describes Jacobs's treatment at the hands of her owners, her eventual escape to the North, and her perilous existence evading recapture as a fugitive slave. To save herself from sexual assault and protect her children she is forced to hide for seven years in a tiny attic space, suffering terrible psychological and physical pain. Written to expose the appalling treatment of slaves in the South and the racism of the free North, and to advance the abolitionist cause, Incidents is notable for its careful construction and literary effects. Jacobs's story of self-emancipation and a growing feminist consciousness is the tale of an individual and a searing indictment of slavery's inhumanity. This edition includes the short memoir by Jacobs's brother, John S. Jacobs, 'A True Tale of Slavery'. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
After hiding in her grandmother’s attic for seven years, Harriet Ann Jacobs was finally able to escape servitude—and her master’s sexual abuse—when she fled to the North. Once there, she became a very active abolitionist, and her correspondence with Harriet Beecher Stowe inspired her to write Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl about her years as a slave.

She published the narrative in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, and the book was written as a novel with fictionalized characters to protect Jacobs from retribution by her former owners. (Dr. Flint, i.e., the real Dr. James Norcom, is Linda Brent’s master in the novel.) The story emphasized certain negative aspects of slavery—especially the struggles of female slaves under sexually abusive masters, cruel mistresses, and the sale of their children—in order to play on the sympathies of white middle-class women in the North.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was published at the beginning of the American Civil War. It contributed to the Union’s and abolitionists’ war effort, but is today seen as an important first-hand account from an escaped slave woman and an important abolitionist. After the Civil War, Jacobs continued to support the African-American cause, particularly education, until her death in 1897.

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