Incidents in the life of a slave is a document written to depict the personal experiences of a women born into slavery. A life where one negative person gets to overshadow your dreams, your hopes, and your whole life with their power.
This document was written by a slave girl, Harriet Jacobs. Jacobs uses the pseudonym, Linda Brent, to narrate her account. The document was written as a first hand testimony to what slavery is. It is a plea to educate the free people as to what an abomination it is to her people. I believe her hopes were that through the power of numbers, a large audience will see the wrong doing that was being afforded to her people and help to prevent it. Most of the document takes place in Edenton, North Carolina, where Jacobs was born and raised. She does lead us through her travels North to escape her owner to New York City, Boston, and some time in England. This document is written throughout many intervals of her life in the mid 1800’s but is not published until 1861 by L. Maria Child.
Harriet Jacobs is outraged in her narrative. She experiences firsthand the cruel and evil treatment of women in slavery. She does not by any means minimize the cruel treatment of men in slavery but brings out that while all slaves are not treated as humans, all slaves are property and for female slaves that took on an additional suffering.
Harriet Jacobs’ story begins with being born to a mother who is a slave, therefore making her born a slave. As a child she was protected from the evils of slavery but she quickly learned of said evils as a young women. She became property, slave laws fall under the same law as property. Property to whom owners can do with as they wish. Jacobs argues that most slave owners are not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong with their ownership. She refers to slave owners as inhumane and Monsters. She learns that even the exceptional good slave owner would sell his own children to protect himself. There are zero laws that protect slaves. A slave lucky enough to flee safely to the North could always be captured and returned to the South. Jacobs believed that the system had de-humanized the slaves. They have never been given any control of their actions so therefore should not be condemned for illegal and immoral acts. This is evident when she states that she would rather be a desperately poor English farm laborer than a pampered slave.
This document is evidence by a real human being that these things really happened. Slaves were forced to live these horrific lives. Slavery was a life sentence that if you were lucky enough to run from, you spent the rest of your life hiding. Jacobs shows evidence of being educated, of having feelings, and knowing rights from wrongs. She does not display evidence of an ignorant, worthless human being as slaves are stereotyped. It is not possible to turn back time over a hundred years and change the things that happened, but we need to educate ourselves and learn from it. Jacobs was never given the opportunity to marry who she loved, to watch her children grow up, and build a home to protect her children, or any of the other things that were afforded to us only because of the color of her skin.
Harriet Jacobs was a young black female who had hopes and dreams, the same as any white female, but her dreams were controlled and overshadowed by one negatively powerful person (her master). She lived a life of uncertainty and never got to realize her dreams of making a home with her children.