Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
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"Incidents in the Life of a Slave Gir"l is a book that was published in 1861 by a former Harriet Jacobs, using the pen name "Linda Brent." It chronicles the experiences of Harriet Jacobs as a slave, and the various humiliations she had to endure in that unhappy state, and especially the abuse that a young woman must face while still on the cusp of girlhood. The book is not only a chronicle of the struggle between owners and slaves but between men and women.

Customer Reviews:

  • Truth about slavery
    I don't do well just picking up a book, reading it through and keeping interest throughout. This book was part of a history course and I have found it very interesting as well as informative. Growing up I always heard of how slaves were treated but when you actually read it from a "SLAVES" view, it brings a whole new perspective. I would recommend it for anyone.
    ...more info
  • Captivating, Monette in Weldon, NC
    This memoir was absolutely enthralling. And yet, I am left with oxymoronic feelings. Reading about the horrors of slavery through the experiences of this slave girl was interesting-as these type of details should be told. At the same time, it was like looking at an accident-what you experienced was imprinted on your mind in an incredibly horrid way. In all the story was extraordinary and despite my feelings, theses types of truths must be shared far more often in this venue and in our national curricula as well....more info
  • An Important Perspective on Slavery
    Often taught along side Frederick Douglass's Narritive of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl offers an important incite into the abuses that female slaves faced. While Douglass's narrative stresses house slavery emasculated male slaves, Jacbos shows how slavery robbed female slaves of their womanhood. Jacobs' alter-ego, Linda Brent, was never physically beaten, like Douglass; the horrors of slavery for her were sexual horrors. Linda must try to ward of the sexual advances of her master while simultaneously dealing with the sexual jealously of her mistress.

    This text is important because it shows how the experience of slavery was gendered and how the experience of womanhood was different for people in different classes. Linda's mother, grandmother, and first mistress all believed in the cult of true womanhood, a prevelant ideology in mid-nineteenth century America that said that women should be "pure, pious, domestic and submissive." Linda was raised with these ideas, but failed to live up to them. While Linda feels shameful and guilty for failing to live up to the standards of the cult of true womanhood, she realizes that slave women cannot be judged by the same standards as middle-class white women because their cultural context is so different. This is, perhaps, the most radical and important message in Jacobs' text.

    From the time that the narrative was published (anonymously) until the 1980s, the authenticity of Jacobs' narrative has been called into question. For over 100 years, scholars and historians assumed that the narrative was false, either ghost written by the editor (Lydia Maria Child) or completely written by her without a grain of truth. Thanks to the work of historian Jean Fagan Yellin, we now know that the narrative was written by Jacobs herself and that all the major events in the narrative are true. There is no reason why this book shouldn't be read as an authentic slave narrative. ...more info
  • Very Valuable
    I am a slow to moderate reader, but read this in 3 days.

    Jacobs compiled something of which I did know existed, a real first hand account of slavery. She depicts the plight of her life in North Carolina, and also that of fellow slaves.

    The depictions of the owners shows some to be generous and others to be horrible, such as when her mistress makes a point to spit in all the dinner pots when they are empty as a means to detract the slaves from scraping anything of them together to eat themselves. When I first read this I was thinking, 'what's a little spit to a hungry malnourished person?' but to think of the contrast of Southern gentility with the effort this horrible bitch put into dragging out the most horrendous mucous she could just to detract another that she claimed from nourishment is beyond me.

    Furthermore, there is another scene where Jacobs' aunt passes away, and the mistress, whom the aunt raised and raised the children of, does not know what she will do without her sleeping outside her door any longer. The inhumanity and the lengths that happened over 3 generations of ownership is a must know for all Americans.

    I recommend this book highly and hope that this review does bring it into new hands....more info
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: This book is diffficult to read because of the horrible reminders of
    the wretched life of American slaves. The book is so
    well written, beautiful prose, detailed descriptions
    of rememberances that I am sure were difficult to
    relive. I highly recommend this wonderful book to any
    one....more info
  • A gripping story.
    I read the paperback edition of this book, edited by L. Maria Child with a new introduction by Walter Teller. First, I'll say that I'm not quite even finished reading the book but felt compelled to write about it. Her story gripped my heart and wrapped around it so tightly that I felt I could see her face. It was as if she had parted the veil of the past to say "don't forget me and what happened to me." My heart ached along with her in her many sufferings. I felt I was really there, in her world. Someday, God willing for us both, I should be honored to make her acquaintence....more info
  • A powerful testimony of enslavement and defiance
    The enslavement of African people in the United States is, without a doubt, one of the best-documented examples of systemic human rights abuse in world history. According to one estimate, more than 6 thousand ex-slaves left behind, in various formats, written testimonies of their experience. One of the most important of these testimonies is "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," by Harriet Jacobs. First published in 1861, it is still a powerful piece of literature.

    Jacobs' narrative, although validated as factual by such 20th century scholars as Jean Fagan Yellin, is written in an almost novelistic style. As a narrative, it is well-structured and vividly written. Jacobs is an outstanding narrator; her voice is rich in moral outrage and psychological insight.

    Jacobs writes movingly of the terrible sufferings of Black slaves. But equally fascinating is her portrayal of the whites who were involved in the terrible institution of slavery. Her master and mistress are not one-dimensional villains; rather, her layered portrait depicts them as pathetic individuals who are psychologically crippled by the overlapping scourges of white supremacy and male chauvinism. Their cruelty seems to reflect an inner pathology.

    Elsewhere in the book Jacobs reveals the southern whites' fears of slave revolts, and she paints a richly satiric portrait of a white clergyman who exploits the Bible and Christian theology as "tools" with which to psychologically intimidate the slave population.

    "Incidents" is a fascinating text that will amply reward the attentive reader. But this is more than just a fine piece of writing; it is also the powerful personal testament of a woman who survived a harrowing ordeal and emerged as a bold advocate of justice....more info

  • This Story Must Be Told Often!
    Incidents in the Life Of A Slave Girl is a harrowing, personal experience of a AA female born and raised during the tumultuous, infamous and tragic era of slavery in America's history. Harriett Jacobs, aka Linda Brent, tells in her own voice-one that is explicit and easy to understand-the story of a young woman born into the brutal, horrendous slavery era who later escapes to freedom in the North. Incidents is emotional and the feelings are raw as you experience the tale of a slave who desired freedom so badly that she hid for SEVEN YEARS in a narrow, cramped quarter without much freedom of movement. The story is riveting and moving and shows what an individual is able to accomplish in spite of sex, race and slavery. Incidents is a story of bravery in light of insurmountable circumstances and ones belief that they can succeed in spite of unmeasurable difficulties.

    Incidents is an excellent reading selection for a bookgroup and a book that I highly recommend to everyone. Remember the story and share the story so that history doesn't repeat itself....more info

  • Excellent Slave History
    This book is hard to put down, and hard to pick up. Dramatic recall of her life as a slave and her escape. I love this book and recommend it to anyone wanting to know the truth about life as a female slave....more info
  • Excellent for analysis of intersection of race and gender
    My theory is that the tension between gender ideology and racial realities is demonstrated by the way escaped bondswoman Harriet Jacobs must tell her tale to pro-abolition Whites in her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself (writing as Linda Brent) (edited by Lydia Maria Francis Child) (introduction by Jean Fagan Yellin) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1987) (1861). At the time Jacobs wrote, popular culture defined femininity based on chastity and child rearing. But Jacobs was writing about experiences of sexual assault not encountered by most White women. In order to establish credibility with that audience, Jacobs goes to great pains to describe both her attempts to prevent her owner from raping her and her desire to care for her children....more info
  • A very poweful tale of the great injustice put on slaves.
    I have read Incidents in the Life of a Slave by Harriet Jacobs, twice! I enjoyed reading her book. Her book is full of rich vocabulary. Her writing skills and the description of events she used was impressive, i.e. the separation of mother and child being sold to slaveholders, I felt the pain. In her writings, she constantly humbled herself because of her circumstances of being a slave and how she felt incompetent to write her life story. I must say that Jacobs did a magnificent job, considering her life of chattel slavery. Besides being courageous, strong and enduring, she was a very wise person. I think Jacob's does not give herself credit for being wise. She was very wise because she had to plan various strategies to outwit her devil master's attempts to capture her. She was wise in not trusting Harriet Beecher Stowe. What was Stowe's purpose of forwarding Jacob's writings to Mrs. Willis, which included her sexual history? Jacobs was no fool. Finally, the most indelible impression on my mind was when she hid in her grandmother's house, above the storage room, for seven years! I was right there with her. Great job Harriet Jacobs!!...more info
  • Gripping and realistic
    I've read this book a few times over the years. The first being for a college course. It stayed with me then as it did each and every time I've read it. I highly recommend this novel as it is so frighteningly realistic and poignant. I have found myself many times recommending this novel to friends and family. It is rich in culture, history and plot. I highly recommend it....more info
  • The mental brutality of slavery depicted by a woman.
    I recently read Linda Brent's novel for the second time and realized that not only does she provide a message about the physical brutality of slavery, but she also gives a description of how emotionally disturbing it was. Anyone who reads this book will be opened up to more than the typical "slavery" issues. I would recommend anyone with an interest to take a good look at the book. With its simple yet well-written language, it reads quickly and effectively paints another side of slavery....more info
  • A frustrating story about a slave's 9 year escape to freedom
    I had to read this book for school, and I was impressed with some of it. The tone was realistic and believable, and the characters were interesting. But the plot was slow, the book is 200 pages long, and the main character's passive nature makes you want to scream. I don't recommend this book for free reading, but as a slave narrative it meets it's purpose of telling the public about the horrors of slavery. I give it three stars....more info
  • This book has affected me for my entire life!
    Throughout my education, this book has been assigned -- from elementary school to college. I have read this book over and over and never cease to find details that astound me. There is an amazing depth to this woman, and the subtle craft of her writing reveal it in full force.

    You may find a comparison between this work and Frederick Douglass' autobiography worthwhile. They are both abolitionists, but they attack that "demon slavery" in very different ways. And personally, I have always preferred Jacob's style of sentiment. She hits you where it hurts the most: in the heart....more info

  • Awe-Inspiring!
    Once I completed reading this book from front-back cover, I wanted to re-read it. I was incredibly inspired and humbled by Ms. Jacob. Her hardships, and brutal struggles were unthinkable, let alone, unspeakable. How she gathered the mental strength to put her story to paper is yet another testament of her tenacity and raw power of strength, love, belief, and courage against her most ungodly circumstances. She helped me to confirm my vow to strengthen myself in the name of all my powerful brothers and sisters....past and present. I will never complain about my life. But I will vehemently complain about the continued injustice placed on Blacks, both young and old. We, as a people, are moving forward, full-trottle. We can not and will not be stopped, ever. Let no man put us asunder! History has showed us most horribly what can happen. My life is a gift and a testament of the struggles of my ancestors. Harriet Jacob's story has given me newfound strength to persevere in my career and to live life fully. My ancestors's angst, fears, physical and mental tortures will not go unnoticed, forgotten, nor minimized. I owe my ancestors a good, if not great life! African-Americans are strong, proud and resilient.
    "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"! Rise Up My People!
    Everyone should read books of slavery. Learn not only the torture of Blacks, but the warped psyche of American slaveholders and the mental legacy they have passed on that is prevalent today....more info
  • "Reader, be assured this narrative is no fiction."
    And with that sentence begins perhaps the most powerful personal account on the brutality of slavery. Written under the name of Linda Brent, the reader is led on a journey into this world of hate by a white power structure in the south & north through the experiences of Harriet Jacobs.

    "I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by slavery...." Jacobs writes. "Only by experience can anyone realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations."

    And as I read this outstanding book, I reflected on how this country has never truly confronted the sordid past of slavery, the failure of Reconstruction and essentially a victory through defeat on the battlefield for those who were advocates of, shills for or operated businesses with slave labor.

    This nation was built on the tears, blood, sweat and toil of millions, and Jacobs is one voice of truth, imploring those with open minds & hearts to hear the reality of human bondage.

    The book should be required reading in every high-school American History class. The ramifications of rewriting history by running from the past must stop if this country wishes to step onto the path of true equal rights and justice for all.

    Jacobs presents the facts. It is sad that it continually gets pushed aside for the fiction that is U.S. history.

    ...more info
  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    This book was excellent, and I couldn't put it down. It was an easy read and would be appropriate for anyone over age 12....more info
  • Rare first hand account of slavery
    Harriet Jacobs book Life of a Slave Girl is a unique piece of slave literature directly from the pen of an articulate slave. One gets a sense of the poignant way she can retell the story of her enslavement from a passage she writes in the preface of her book.

    ". . . I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a
    realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South,
    still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse.
    I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people
    of the Free States what Slavery really is. Only by experience can any
    one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations."

    Her story raises emotions of sentiment for a mother struggling to hold her family together, and it shines a light on the cruelties of slavery. The political sentiment at the time among the elites in the northern states was increasingly becoming antislavery. The political aspect of Jacob's writing is not that of the highly stylized writings of famous abolitionists or of eminent blacks such as Frederick Douglass using reason and religion to condemn slavery. Jacob's writing is visceral and down to earth. Her powerful argument against slavery pulls at the heartstrings of any sympathetic decent human being. In essence, Jacob's story is one that resonates with people of all socio-economic backgrounds. It is no mystery why the hearts and minds of people are stirred to action after one reads Jacob's disturbing accounts of sexual depravity, mental anguish, and the destruction of the family unit, that she endured as a slave. Her first person narrative account is what makes her book such a strong force of political sentiment in the genre of slave narrative. Since there were so few slave narratives in circulation at the time, it was easy for Jacob's book to engender such strong political sentimentality.

    Jacob's ability to arouse aesthetic sentimentality in her audience was a bit tricky, because of the sexual decisions she had to make in her life. Deciding to have an elicit sexual relationship with an unmarried white neighbor to escape the depraved advances of her owner could be construed as Jacob's being more interested in autonomy and less interested in chastity. Jacob has made it clear to her audience that it was her station in life that caused her to make what her white readers would consider an unconventional choice. Jacob's plight as a slave caused her to choose freedom over trying to protect her chastity more strenuously. Since slavery took away almost all of her freedom and individuality, she was willing to trade her chastity for the freedom of choice. Jacob's virginity was one of the few things she possessed that she was able to withhold from her owner. After going into detail for why she made her choice she still felt it was necessary to apologize to her "Victoria" audience for her decision. This act on her part was truly one of the few choices she had the ability to make while in slavery's bondage. Thus, once Jacob's white audience understood the dreadfully marginal position she occupied in society, most of them would feel compassion for her. This would make her audience more inclined to accept the choice she felt was necessary to make for her own well-being. Jacob's decision over who she would give her sexual being to, was he only way of holding onto some semblance of individuality.

    This was required reading for a graduate course in the Humanities. Recommended reading for anyone interested in history, psychology, philosophy, and literature.

    ...more info
  • Rare first hand account of slavery
    Harriet Jacobs book Life of a Slave Girl is a unique piece of slave literature directly from the pen of an articulate slave. One gets a sense of the poignant way she can retell the story of her enslavement from a passage she writes in the preface of her book.

    ". . . I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a
    realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South,
    still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse.
    I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people
    of the Free States what Slavery really is. Only by experience can any
    one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations."

    Her story raises emotions of sentiment for a mother struggling to hold her family together, and it shines a light on the cruelties of slavery. The political sentiment at the time among the elites in the northern states was increasingly becoming antislavery. The political aspect of Jacob's writing is not that of the highly stylized writings of famous abolitionists or of eminent blacks such as Frederick Douglass using reason and religion to condemn slavery. Jacob's writing is visceral and down to earth. Her powerful argument against slavery pulls at the heartstrings of any sympathetic decent human being. In essence, Jacob's story is one that resonates with people of all socio-economic backgrounds. It is no mystery why the hearts and minds of people are stirred to action after one reads Jacob's disturbing accounts of sexual depravity, mental anguish, and the destruction of the family unit, that she endured as a slave. Her first person narrative account is what makes her book such a strong force of political sentiment in the genre of slave narrative. Since there were so few slave narratives in circulation at the time, it was easy for Jacob's book to engender such strong political sentimentality.

    Jacob's ability to arouse aesthetic sentimentality in her audience was a bit tricky, because of the sexual decisions she had to make in her life. Deciding to have an elicit sexual relationship with an unmarried white neighbor to escape the depraved advances of her owner could be construed as Jacob's being more interested in autonomy and less interested in chastity. Jacob has made it clear to her audience that it was her station in life that caused her to make what her white readers would consider an unconventional choice. Jacob's plight as a slave caused her to choose freedom over trying to protect her chastity more strenuously. Since slavery took away almost all of her freedom and individuality, she was willing to trade her chastity for the freedom of choice. Jacob's virginity was one of the few things she possessed that she was able to withhold from her owner. After going into detail for why she made her choice she still felt it was necessary to apologize to her "Victoria" audience for her decision. This act on her part was truly one of the few choices she had the ability to make while in slavery's bondage. Thus, once Jacob's white audience understood the dreadfully marginal position she occupied in society, most of them would feel compassion for her. This would make her audience more inclined to accept the choice she felt was necessary to make for her own well-being. Jacob's decision over who she would give her sexual being to, was he only way of holding onto some semblance of individuality.

    This was required reading for a graduate course in the Humanities. Recommended reading for anyone interested in history, psychology, philosophy, and literature.

    ...more info
  • Rare first hand account of slavery
    Harriet Jacobs book Life of a Slave Girl is a unique piece of slave literature directly from the pen of an articulate slave. One gets a sense of the poignant way she can retell the story of her enslavement from a passage she writes in the preface of her book.

    ". . . I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a
    realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South,
    still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse.
    I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people
    of the Free States what Slavery really is. Only by experience can any
    one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations."

    Her story raises emotions of sentiment for a mother struggling to hold her family together, and it shines a light on the cruelties of slavery. The political sentiment at the time among the elites in the northern states was increasingly becoming antislavery. The political aspect of Jacob's writing is not that of the highly stylized writings of famous abolitionists or of eminent blacks such as Frederick Douglass using reason and religion to condemn slavery. Jacob's writing is visceral and down to earth. Her powerful argument against slavery pulls at the heartstrings of any sympathetic decent human being. In essence, Jacob's story is one that resonates with people of all socio-economic backgrounds. It is no mystery why the hearts and minds of people are stirred to action after one reads Jacob's disturbing accounts of sexual depravity, mental anguish, and the destruction of the family unit, that she endured as a slave. Her first person narrative account is what makes her book such a strong force of political sentiment in the genre of slave narrative. Since there were so few slave narratives in circulation at the time, it was easy for Jacob's book to engender such strong political sentimentality.

    Jacob's ability to arouse aesthetic sentimentality in her audience was a bit tricky, because of the sexual decisions she had to make in her life. Deciding to have an elicit sexual relationship with an unmarried white neighbor to escape the depraved advances of her owner could be construed as Jacob's being more interested in autonomy and less interested in chastity. Jacob has made it clear to her audience that it was her station in life that caused her to make what her white readers would consider an unconventional choice. Jacob's plight as a slave caused her to choose freedom over trying to protect her chastity more strenuously. Since slavery took away almost all of her freedom and individuality, she was willing to trade her chastity for the freedom of choice. Jacob's virginity was one of the few things she possessed that she was able to withhold from her owner. After going into detail for why she made her choice she still felt it was necessary to apologize to her "Victoria" audience for her decision. This act on her part was truly one of the few choices she had the ability to make while in slavery's bondage. Thus, once Jacob's white audience understood the dreadfully marginal position she occupied in society, most of them would feel compassion for her. This would make her audience more inclined to accept the choice she felt was necessary to make for her own well-being. Jacob's decision over who she would give her sexual being to, was he only way of holding onto some semblance of individuality.

    This was required reading for a graduate course in the Humanities. Recommended reading for anyone interested in history, psychology, philosophy, and literature.

    ...more info
  • A MUST READ FOR ANY RACE
    This book reads like a novel. You just cannot fathom that these incidents are true. The author was born in the 1800's into slavery and writes accounts of her life growing up on a Southern plantation. From birth, to childbearing, to.....the end is a surprise!!
    You will go back in time with the author, who speaks more eloquently than most authors I have read, to a place where one would have a hard time distinguishing life from hell.
    I am a white woman who grew up in a predominately white neighborhood. I have never heard nor read anything like this. They really don't tell you the truth in school. This should be a must read for anyone. Since it was written in the 1800's, some may have a more difficult time understanding certain phrases and words. So one must take that into consideration before deciding to read. But should you decide that this book is for you, then you will not be sorry.
    ...more info
  • Jacobs' book deserves its place in the canon
    Harriet Jacobs' account of her years as a fugitive slave is a compelling narrative and offers a view of slavery that is anything but over represented in the nineteenth-century literary canon. An attractive domestic slave, she began attracting the attention of her owner at an early age. Jacobs' book explores the family dynamics of both slaves and slave owners, and how the sexual advances of the owners affect each. Her book is in large part about the struggle to maintain Christian morality in such an inherently immoral institution as American slavery....more info
  • Humbling
    A real "eye opener." It's hard to believe the incidents in this girl's life really happened and therefore makes you feel very humble. It was interesting and informative to read about the life of a female slave and to have the book actually written by one made it more heart rendering. The book is well written and is highly recommended. ...more info
  • A great read
    "Incidents" was one of the best personal recollections of slavery that I have read, particularly because it is from the female perspective. The book gave me great insight into the daily horrors of the lives of black woman during that time....more info