Harriet Jacob’s Book ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacob’s book, ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ asserts that slavery was a very crucial thing back then, it was very serious, and they had to go through a lot just to protect themselves. Jacob’s supports these claims by explaining what she did to survive and keep safe for so long. This book is mainly about the obstacles Harriet Jacobs pseudonym Linda Bent went through and everything that she had to overcome, and she also had to sacrifice at times. Linda Brent struggles to protect herself from her lecherous master and is torn between her desire to run away from him and her need to protect her children. This book was written during the Civil War, a war about slavery but mainly about economic consequences. The north wasn’t just fighting to preserve the Union they were fighting to end slavery. When Jacob’s was born slavery was already into play, she was born in Edenton, North Carolina which is considered a southern state where slavery was a major thing. Jacob’s purpose in writing the book was to support the anti-slavery with account of her story because she is the one who went through it. Her purpose was to tell the story of those who were being treated wrong and those who were doing the beating of the slaves.

Some key figures from this autobiography would be the uncle whose name is Uncle Benjamin. Uncle Benjamin was tired of it all, so he beats his master then successfully runs away. Some other key figures would be her kids Benny and Ellen because these two is what made the book way more interesting. Even though there are many more the characters I think are most important is Amy and Isaac post. They were antislavery friends of Linda’s, they showed Linda that not every white person was bad and that there are white people that look at everyone as equal people. Some key events from within this book would be when Linda runs away from the plantation and goes into hiding, leaving her previous life behind and taking the first step away from slavery. Another key factor would be when Dr. Flint throws Linda’s children and brother in jail; Linda tricks Dr. Flint into thinking she is living in the North, Mr. Sands promises to free their children but then breaks that promise. One of the major key events from this book is when Emily Flint and her husband, Mr. Dodge, arrive in New York to capture Linda. Linda goes into hiding, and the new Mrs. Bruce offers to purchase her freedom. Linda refuses, unwilling to be bought and sold yet again, and makes plans to follow Benny to California. Mrs. Bruce buys Linda anyway. Linda is devastated at being sold and furious with Emily Flint and the whole slave system.

There were some parts of the book that was very strong for example in the book it states, ‘ but I now entered on my fifteenth year—a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import. . . . He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of (Chpt.5)’. Already, at the age of 15, her master begins to speak to her of sexual topics and to demand that she submit to his wishes. Harriet Jacobs was abused emotionally, sexually, and physically by many individuals throughout her story. She could not keep everyone happy, so she was constantly being punished, for example, if she submitted to her master’s demands, his wife grew angry and jealous. Additionally, Jacobs had to go against her moral teachings to submit to her master’s wishes. She could not make decisions for herself; instead, she had to obey the demands of everyone around her. In chapter 6, Jacobs demonstrates how evil she believes slavery to be, I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered among the slaves of America.

A strong quote from the story that I like is when Brent stated, ‘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’. Jacobs argues you cannot possibly understand what she has been through. The implication is that slaves should not be judged according to the moral and legal standards of the free world at all. Since slaves have no control over their bodies and destinies, they cannot reasonably be convicted of unethical or illegal actions. Some connections that I could make between this book and today’s time is that slavery still exists to this day. Almost every day you can look at the news there is an African American being kilt by white people and nothing is being done about it. For example, a white kid went into a black church and killed almost the entire church, was took to trial and was token as crazy so they put him into a crazy home instead of sending him to jail or giving him the death penalty. If it was the other way around and he was a black person, it would be a totally different story the police would have arrived, and he wouldn’t have even made it to a court date because he would have died right then. Another example would be what happened in Jasper, TX. A group of white people tied a black man to the back of a truck by chains with his body hanging on the ground and drug him across the city.

Slavery was a major part of history and it is something that just won’t ever be forgotten. Our ancestors sacrificed a lot just to make sure that we could all be seen as equal in today’s world. The crazy part about it is that there are ignorant people in the world that still want slavery to exist. As Harry Belafonte said, ‘Although slavery may have been abolished, the crippling poison of racism still persists, and the struggle still continues’.