This true story is incredibly moving. Harriet Jacobs tells of the cruel treatment of her master, not only physical punishment, but sexual advances. She truly shows the terrifying, hideous tinge slavery put on on every aspect of a slave's life. The descriptions of the circumstances of slavery were eloquent and disturbing. The sections telling of the seperations from her children had me in tears.
This is a harrowing autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, an articulate and surreptitiously educated slave. It is emotionally wrenching to read of the abuse, indignities, deprivation, and cruelty - both physical and emotional - Jacobs endured until she was purchased and freed when she was approximately 39 years old. The horror is relieved by the reciprocal love for her grandmother, two children, a brother, and an uncle, which - along with a superhuman will - sustain her through her suffering. Jacobs' life after freedom was eventful and rewarding to her and is detailed on several online sites devoted to her.
Jacobs is the model for "Grace", another slave, in Gertrude Brooks Pulitzer Prize - winning novel, "March." Reading the two books sequentially gives the reader great insight into slavery and the Civil War.
I visited a ruined Plantation near Charleston and took a tour of the house and grounds. A historian,with a PhD, told a group of us the history of the place and it's relationship to that area. I stayed behind after the group had left and asked her many more questions about slavery. She recommended this book as the best on the market for a more complete understanding of what her ancestors would have gone through.
I highly recommend this book as she had herself.
It is my understanding that slave narratives were written to aid the abolitionist in persuading white northerners to join the movement by illustrating the horrors of slavery. Considering the era and her audience, I realize it was necessary for Jacobs' language to bring attention to such vulgarities without actually being vulgar. Personally, I felt her portrayal was too tame when it came to describing the 'brutality and injustice inflicted on female slaves that trampled on their humanity and their gender all at once.' Still, her pain and anguish are not wasted on me:
"I admit that the black man is inferior. But what is it that makes him so? It is the ignorance in which white men compel him to live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the South..." or here,
"Pity me, and pardon me, O virtuous reader! You never knew what it is to be a slave; to be entirely unprotected by law or custom; to have the laws reduce you to the condition of a chattel, entirely subject to the will of another. You never exhausted your ingenuity in avoiding the snares, and eluding the power of a hated tyrant; you never shuddered at the sound of his footsteps, and trembled within hearing his voice,' just to highlight a few.
Coming out on the other end of this narrative, I have a greater appreciation for my own basic HUMAN liberties that I take for granted every day. Jacobs' story moves me as a woman, angers me as an African, and shames me as an American to know that this is part of my history.
canders reviewed Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl on
This is a great book about life for a slave girl. It gives a whole new light to what it was like for them, women in particular. It shines a sad but true light on a time we would all rather forget and reminds us just how cruel people can be and consider it for the good of others.
I enjoyed reading this little book. It gives a deeper insight into what slave life was like because it is a first hand account. Hard to believe this horrible institution was once a daily part of this country's history. A worthwhile read.