Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself by Harriet Ann Jacobs


I downloaded Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself one day when I was browsing the free books on the Kindle. Along with The Baker’s Daughter, this book has gotten me thinking about my role in this world. Am I purposely making myself ignorant of those around me who are in danger? “In view of these things, why are ye silent, ye free men and women of the north? Why do your tongues falter in maintenance of the right? Would that I had more ability! But my heart is so full, and my pen is so weak! There are noble men and women who plead for us, striving to help those who cannot help themselves. God bless them! God give them strength and courage to go on! God bless those, every where, who are laboring to advance the cause of humanity.”

In the book, Harriet goes by the name Linda. She was born to a slave woman and in her time, “the child follows the condition of the mother.” If the mother is a slave, the baby is as well, and belongs to the master of the mother. Her story is unique in many respects. She is raised surrounded by her family; she learns to read and write alongside her little mistress; and she acquires freedom for herself and her two children.

While her story has many unique elements, it is bound together with all slaves: past, present, and future, who share the feeling that as one created in the image of God, they should not be owned by another person. When she finally gets her freedom, here are her thoughts, “A gentleman near me said, ‘It’s true; I have seen the bill of sale.’ ‘The bill of sale!’ Those words struck me like a blow. So I was sold in the free city of New York! The bill of sale is on record, and future generations will learn from it that women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in the United States. I well know the value of a bit of paper; but much as I love freedom, I do not like to look upon it. I am deeply grateful to the generous friend who procured it, but I despise the miscreant who demanded payment for what never rightfully belonged to him or his.”

Friends, I feel inadequate to write this review. I could not put this book down. I don’t feel like I should say that I enjoyed it, as it was a chronicle of so many’s suffering. But, every time I was forced to put it down, I grabbed it back up again as quickly as I could. I think you’ll feel the same way about it. Not only will you want to keep reading, I think you should read it. I think it is important for everybody to read this book.


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