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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a book that was published in 1861 by Harriet Jacobs, using the pen name "Linda Brent". While on one level it chronicles the experiences of Harriet Jacobs as a slave, and the various humiliations she had to endure in that unhappy state, it also deals with the particular tortures visited on women at her station

Customer Reviews:

  • 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
  • Dover Edition
    Concerning this edition (the book is a must read)... Dover's thrift editions are just that--thrifty. The text is close together and the overall readability of the edition is fair. It works, but I'd like to see Oxford or Penguin make a "classic" edition with a scholary introduction, footnoting and contextual information like 19th century reviews, etc... A good edition, needs improvement, but then it wouldn't have a "thrifty" price!...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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Really for all ages, about slavery
    I used an excerpt from this book included in a women's literary anthology used in my women's literature class. It was one of the many classes' favorite reads. For their final they were allowed to concentrate on one class assignment, write a documented essay, and from it, give an oral presentation with visuals....several successfully replicated, small scale, the yard and house with attic where Jacobs describes as being hidden for years... an incredible true story for everyone of all ages!...more info
  • fact or fiction
    Some say this isnt true, after reading it seems that some is fiction. Especially extensive quotes years after the events from someone who coulnt read or write at the time the events occured and would have no way of recording them for future use. Somewhat drawn out. Keep looking there may be something better out there on the subject....more info
  • First hand account
    Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is unique in that it is one of the few firsthand accounts written by a woman. The book is a tribute to an extraordinary woman who spent much of her life fighting against slavery. She also provides details into the reality of this dark period of American history, constantly struggling with how a nation can be Christian and yet allow the practice to continue. It is impossible to read this book and not be impressed with the quality of this historical figure....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
  • 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
  • Unexpected
    I had no idea that this book would be as compelling as it was. Really, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise. I bought it because it was required reading for a class, but ended up liking it... Who knew?...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
  • Excellent Book, and very moving.
    This book is one of those books that have quite an affect on you. By the time I was done I had a bit more of knowledege of how slavery really was. Clearly I had no idea until I read it. I really wanted to cry so many times during the book.

    Everyone should read this book....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
  • Compelling Account, Easily Read
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl / 0-674-44746-8

    It is amusing to note that Jacobs' autobiography was published just prior to Stowe's famous Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe's work, for all it's virtues, is (to modern eyes, at least) painfully didactic, frequently breaking the narrative to tell the reader what they are meant to take from a scene. Jacobs' Incidents, however, is written freely and easily, relating the salient points of her life, rarely breaking narrative to tell the reader what to think. It is merely presented, as is, and is immensely more readable than other contemporary works. Unfortunately, Jacobs' work was passed over as too salacious - she actually includes men in her novel, and not all her encounters are strictly 'forced', in the sense that some liaisons are contracted for convenience and safety, if not always for love.

    Amusingly, these "flaws" in Jacobs' character make her narrative that more interesting and insightful to read. It is relevant and worth knowing that slaves sometimes felt obligated to please certain men in order to secure safety or basic necessities. Jacobs determination to survive and thrive within the system that oppresses her causes us to admire her and to enjoy her narrative as we hope for some kind of happiness and success in her life of few options, none of them good. If you have any interest at all in slavery or the American Civil War, I highly recommend this 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
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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
  • It shows life of a slave women from a slaves point of view!!
    Incidents in the life of a slave girl...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
  • 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
  • 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 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
  • 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
  • Unexpected turn of events
    It's obvious the difficulty slaves endured. Ironic, but she endures a great deal more than most. How her story ends is not predictable. ...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 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
  • 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