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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

by Harriet A. Jacobs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,245782,720 (3.97)151
Biography & Autobiography. African American Nonfiction. Nonfiction. HTML:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the immensely powerful autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, who wrote under a pen name. A feminist work, she uses her experiences to state and restate her belief that though all unhappiness sprung from being a slave, she had to endure worse, being also a woman. Her experiences show that the only refuge and relief to be found were in other women, and also that women were less able to attempt freedom when that would mean leaving their children behind. Her autobiography is the account of her struggle to achieve that freedom and respect and redefine herself. Her life is a testament to her grandmother's credo: "He that is willing to be a slave, let him be a slave."

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English (76)  Spanish (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
Heartbreaking first person narrative of Harriet Jacobs (written using pseudonym Linda Brent), born into slavery in the mid-1800s and her quest for freedom from slavery for herself and her children.
The family who were slaveholders over her led a relentless years long pursuit of her after she became a fugitive from them. ( )
  deslivres5 | Nov 17, 2023 |
I am plagued by the suspician that "Harriet" included experiences of others in her narrative, because sheer logistics makes it unlikely she experienced every single one of these horrific events. That suspicion, for me, was counterproductive because it made me distrust the narrative as a whole. ( )
  Kim.Sasso | Aug 27, 2023 |
5 stars for the Librivox audiobook recording by Elizabeth Klett, 4½ stars for the Kindle edition book. Elizabeth Klett is absolutely wonderful narrating this autobiography. I couldn't stop listening once I had started!

I decided to read this in honor of Back History Month. As a result of a recent conversation, I realized that my previous focus on the Civil Rights movement was perhaps a little too 'easy' on my white upper middle class conscience. I didn't really know anything about this book other than the fact that I had heard the title before. I was ready for the book to have descriptions of atrocities but what I wasn't ready for was the literate style of the prose. I know, shame on me for my stereotypical preconceptions!

Harriet Jacobs tells her story in such a straightforward manner as to compell belief, and while the abuses she describes are now well-known, it must have taken a tremendous amount of strength of mind to write and publish this in 1861. She not only documents the terrible degradations of slavery, but also the racism she and her children are forced to undergo in the "free states" of New York and Massachusetts. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
4½ stars. Powerful autobiography of Harriet Jacobs; this story of her life growing up as a slave and her eventual escape into the North is enhanced by the matter-of-fact manner which she uses to describe some terrible conditions. By matter-of-fact, I don't mean that she is accepting of these conditions - she speaks passionately about the injustices, cruelty, and hypocrisy she sees both in the south and the north - but she doesn't dramatize when she is describing them. I found this factual tone to make the story more compelling, so much so that I couldn't stop once I started.

To have written and published this in 1861 shows what tremendous strength of character Harriet Jacobs had, especially as she includes some fairly scathing commentary on the racism she and her children faced in the "free states" of New York and Massachusetts. I can see how incendiary this book must have been when it came out! Even as an emancipated woman living in a free state, it must have been dangerous for her (even using a pseudonym). ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
This accounting of slavery in the South and oppression in the North is written by a woman slave and fully offers her perspective as a mother, granddaughter, sister, and niece. She claims that she does not write well, but that is certainly not reflected in this book. She cites hymns, scripture, songs, and relates both her trials and tribulations with such emotion.
This book should be required reading in middle school. ( )
  Kimberlyhi | Apr 15, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jacobs, Harriet A.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Child, Lydia MariaEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, R. J.Editormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleischner, JenniferEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foster, Frances SmithEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hendrick, WilleneEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keilman, GeorgiaEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKay, Nellie Y.Editormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pine, Joslyn T.Editormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yellin, Jean FaganEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Child, Harriet Annsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dutra, WaltensirTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evers-Williams, MyrlieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giovanni, NikkiNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffin, Farah JasmineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobs, John S.Contributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, Dawn LundyAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meriwether, LouiseIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Painter, Nell IrvinContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teller, WalterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
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. -A Woman of North Carolina

Rise up, ye women that are at ease! Hear my voice, ye careless daughters! Give ear unto my speech. -Isaiah xxxii.9
Dedication
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I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Biography & Autobiography. African American Nonfiction. Nonfiction. HTML:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the immensely powerful autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, who wrote under a pen name. A feminist work, she uses her experiences to state and restate her belief that though all unhappiness sprung from being a slave, she had to endure worse, being also a woman. Her experiences show that the only refuge and relief to be found were in other women, and also that women were less able to attempt freedom when that would mean leaving their children behind. Her autobiography is the account of her struggle to achieve that freedom and respect and redefine herself. Her life is a testament to her grandmother's credo: "He that is willing to be a slave, let him be a slave."

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Book description
One of the first personal narratives written by an ex-slave, this is also one of the few written by a woman. Harriet Jacobs (1813-97) was enslaved, along with her family, in North Carolina under a ruthless master who sexually harassed her. After several failed escape attempts, and several years of hiding, she finally made her way North to freedom, where she was eventually reunited with her children.
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Skyhorse Publishing

An edition of this book was published by Skyhorse Publishing.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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