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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Girlebooks Classics)
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"Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women," Harriet Jacobs wrote in 1861. Under the pen name Linda Brent, she published one of the few personal slave narratives written by a woman. Jacobs was a slave in North Carolina and made several failed attempts to escape before successfully making her way North. The book chronicles her life as a slave, her escape and hiding, and finally her reunion with her children.

Customer Reviews:

  • The evils of slavery are shown firsthand in this account
    Harriet Jacobs offers us a truthful view inside the secrets of slavery. This practice was dehumanizing and should be identified as the horrible practice that it is.

    Jacobs tells us that one of the most painful aspects of slavery was the way slave families could be sold and parents would never know where their adolescent children had been sold as slaves. The needs of the White slave owners came first and the sick children of slaves had to be left alone to tend to field labor and domestic chores in the Plantation home. Jacobs points out that White women were hardened to the cries of Negro workers when their children were sold away.

    Jacobs also tells us of the beatings that slave workers often received from their masters. Jacobs admits that sex between masters and slaves was not uncommon and that children born with white fathers and black mothers were cruely treated by the master's wife and were usually some of the first children sold off the plantation.

    Harriet Jacobs thinks that White slave owners introduced Christianity to the Negro slaves so that they could be taught not to murder their White masters. Christianity turned out to be a philosophical and spiritual gift to the Negro slaves who lost their culture when they were shipped from Africa. Slaves soon learned that the Christianity practiced by White slave owners allowed for murder, beating, and all forms of degradation and shame to the slaves justified by Biblical Scripture. The slaves had to learn how to take from Christianity a spiritual gift to give them strength while recognizing that White Christians used the Bible to justify their violence.

    She quotes from the wonderful old spiritual song: "Ole Satan's church is here below; Up to God's free church I hope to go."

    Books such as this reveal the false claim that the Negro race is inherently inferior and thus requires the White race to dominate. Jacobs had to hide her intelligence or risk possible beating and isolation.

    The book tells a story of her life and her escape from slavery after being hidden if a secret compartment within a house for many years. Slave narratives such as this give first hand testimony to the cruelty of slavery and the false beliefs that perpetuated it for hundreds of years....more info
  • Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl
    Well written and an easy read of a sad time in our 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
  • 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
  • simple and straightforward
    What I particularly like about this book is how easy it is to read through. The southern vernacular dialect is sparse and not used by Harriet/Linda in the book. Further, the retelling of the horrors of slavery are not overdramatized -- it's not necessary to get the reader's attention. The everyday nature of these attocities are evident in the straightforward reporting of the events.

    The dynamics of the household are fascinating when you read of the jealous mistresses who are infuriated at their husbands' infidelities under their roofs and how they mistreat the slave women who are subjected to their husband's unwelcomed advances.

    Harriet's Grandmother is a remarkable woman of her day -- she became free and through hard work bought many of her own family members. She was a highly respected member of the community lending money to whites and blacks alike.

    Survival and freedom for herself and her children is Harriet's objective and her unyielding determination is inspiring.

    This story tells how difficult it was to be a woman in the south and particularly an attractive woman in slavery...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
  • 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