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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself Paperback – April 24, 2013
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It's obvious that Harriet Jacobs did a very brave thing for her time and did a major favor for us here in the future: She not only told her story (like other former slaves) in order to put an end to the sin of slavery, but she gave detail to the suffering and humiliation slaves had to face every single day of their lives. She added another angle with her account of the sexual harassment she had to face from Dr. Norcum almost daily, and she wrote about other female slaves who had to endure his advances - and then be sold away when they bore his children.
It wasn't bad enough for female slaves to be subjected to sexual advances at such a young age by their masters/owners, but adding insult to injury was that they had to deal with the jealousy of their mistress (as if it was their fault their husbands were pigs). And, to add further stress, was the constant threat that their children (whether legitimate or illegitimate) could be sold at any time.
This whole book was an eye-opener for me, but one of the many parts that I found fascinating was when Harriet came to Philadelphia and heard church bells the first time here. She got up and got dressed quickly, but her roommate couldn't have cared less. When Harriet was perplexed by the lack of action on the girl's part, she asked why and the girl responded that the church bells ringing were no big deal. These two women lived in the same country and they may as well have been from opposite ends of the world (sorry to report that I don't think much has changed since then).
One of the most frustrating aspects of this book was having to constantly read about how the American legal system protected slave holders every step of the way and almost up to the bitter end. Even those "fugitive" slaves living in the North had to worry about being captured and sent back down South to face unspeakable punishment. Hell, even free blacks were captured and sent to the South to be slaves. And I did not know until recently that there was a large settlement of slaves in Canada due to the constant changing of laws in this country to benefit slave holders and due to the slave hunters that were looking for big money in hunting down wanted slaves.
But I have noticed that Jacobs and Olaudah Equiano, whose narratives are celebrated widely and treated as standard bearers, didn't suffer the beyond horrible treatment that other slaves went through. Yes, their experiences were horrible, but Equiano was able to purchase his freedom and live freely (which was very rare) and Jacobs was able to mouth off Dr. Norcum quite frequently and then get her grandmother to back her up sans heavy consequences. If you're looking for a gritty narrative, then Frederick Douglass is more up your alley.
While this book has the potential to be a quick enough read, it's a book where every word needs to be absorbed and
reread at least twice. - Donna Di Giacomo
This book should be required reading for high school aged children. It would help a young mind and heart to personalize this atrocity that happened in our American history. Unlike the historical accounts of slavery, this book indicates that there were, in fact, some good and bad hearts on both sides of slavery and good white souls who harbored escaped slaves and treated their own slaves with loving kindness and even freed them. This book also communicates, on a personal level, how laws that we have as common everyday laws, were not applicable to slaves - slaves were not allowed to "own" much, were always subservient to the master even with the mistress gave different orders, were treated worse than animals, were not allowed to congregate for church unless certain people were present, had to have meals rationed each week... basically they had an entirely different set of rules to live by. These are not things easily understood when reading in a textbook.
If you haven't read this book, you should. It will humble you in ways unexplainable.