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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself
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"Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of _degradation_ involved in that word, SLAVERY; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown."

Customer Reviews:

  • 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
  • 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

  • What a Intriging book
    I had to read it for school and we had weeks to coplete it, of course I waited till last minute, which usually get me in trouble but this particular book was so eaasy to read. It grabed my attention right away and I couldn't put the dam thing down until I was done!...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
  • 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
  • Awe-Inspiring
    Harriet Jacobs, as an ex-enslaved female African American, wrote not only one of the first but also one of the most powerful narratives of enslavement. For any reader, of any race, desirous of experiencing something of the horrors of slavery, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" delivers.

    Jacobs documents the horrendous treatment she and her fellow enslaved family members endured. Treated as nothing more than chattel, Jacobs repeatedly resisted the lewd advances of her owner. True escape and freedom impossible, Harriet "escaped" to a tiny underground hole in a relative's shack. Imagine what it was like for her to "live" there for seven years, watching through crevices her children age and her relatives raped.

    External freedom impossible, her story explores the possibility of internal freedom. In her case, found through her Christian faith and her hope of earthly freedom some day and heavenly freedom one day.

    "Incidents" is mind-expanding, awe-inspiring, and soul-developing. Read it to learn and to change.

    Reviewer: Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction." He has also authored "Soul Physicians" and "Spiritual Friends."
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  • 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
  • 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
  • I truly enjoyed it!
    I really loved this book. I read it for a college English class, and I was blown away by Jacob's writing and personal journey. She protrayed herself as a woman of dignity, courage, and strength, and I just cannot say enough about it. It is a must read!...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.
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  • 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.
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  • Determination
    I write this review to applaud the courage of this woman. Not only did she live through and experience episodes in her life that no person should ever have experienced; she had the strength to chronicle the episodes of her life. Would this have been an easy task for her to do? She mentions how difficult it was; it is my hope that God has provided her a heavenly place for eternity. She has told her story in a most respectful and very kind fashion considering the fact that animals were treated better than these Black American's were. Certainly another example of man and his capacity at cruelty; at the expense of another human being or race of people. A disgraceful period in the history of this country; one we need to learn from so these atrocities are never permitted to take place again. ...more info
  • Review of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    At point this novel is rather vivid which just adds to the fact that it is a true story. ...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
  • 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

  • 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.

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  • It shows life of a slave women from a slaves point of view!!
    Incidents in the life of a slave girl...more info
  • It has given me a bold new incite of Afican Slaves
    "Incidents In the Life Of a Slave Girl," has given me a new incite into the lives of African American female slaves, and the institution of slavery it self. I have often neglected to read about the lives that slaves lead during that time period, because I often felt uncomfortable about the subject of slavery. But this book has shown me that my ancestor did what they could with what the had. I recommend this book for all peolple,particularly African American females, because this book gives you an example of what American female slaves had to contend with, along with the strength and courage that they had just to live. Thank You...more info
  • A Story of Horror and Heroism
    Harriet Jacobs, "Linda" as she is called in the book, experienced a sheltered childhood. Having been blessed with a kind mistress, she was given the privilege of learning to read and write. It was not until she was around eleven that she really began to experience the horrors of slavery. From this point on she describes the many evils inflicted upon herself and many of the other slaves including bloody beatings, rapes, murders, the destruction of families, and humiliation.

    After having been sexually abused by her master, Dr. Flint, time and time again, Linda was determined to do anything in order to defeat him. As a result of this, she had given birth to two children with another white man in the community. It is these two children that gave Linda the strength and courage to keep fighting. One unique aspect of the narrative is Linda's belief that slaves should not be held to the same standards as free people. She believes that due to their situation slaves should not be judged as harshly because anybody in their position would make similar choices.

    In order to protect her children from the terrors of slavery, Linda ran away from her master and remained in hiding for nearly seven years. Eventually she was able to escape to the North and reunite with her two children. Linda was a woman who knew the wrongs of slavery and was not afraid to hold true to her beliefs. As quoted from the book, "She would go to the ends of the earth rather than pay and man or woman for her freedom, because she thinks she has a right to it."

    The book gives a firsthand account of the trials and tribulations of the slavery system. It reveals the physical and psychological traumas inflicted upon slaves. However, the story also has heroic content as Linda is triumphant in escaping the grasp of slavery. I enjoyed this book because the reader is able to develop a deeper understanding of what slavery was really like. I was surprised at how well it was written since it is by Harriet Jacobs herself. It kept the reader interested in learning what happened to "Linda" next. I would definately recommend reading this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about slavery. ...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
  • 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