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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harriet Jacobs, writing under the pseudonym Linda Brent, had a much more humane early childhood than did Frederick Douglass. While Douglass was separated early from his mother, Jacobs lived with her parents and brother in North Carolina, where they were treated fairly kindly. Douglass, on the other hand, witnessed the horrors of slavery quite early, including the brutal whipping of his aunt at the hands of the overseer. In fact, Jacobs learned to read from her slave mistress, while Douglass's slave mistress in Baltimore at first taught him to read but then was roundly chastised for doing so and stopped. The other difference between their early life is that Jacobs was part of rural slavery, while Douglass, in his time in Baltimore, was an urban slave who eventually learned to work on ships.

Jacobs, who addressed her narrative to northern women, also endured several incidents that showed the effects of slavery on a woman. Her master made several unwanted sexual advances towards her, and she became involved with a white man as a form of protection. They had two children who were also slaves, and the white man did not free them. Douglass, on the other hand, was not married while a slave. Jacobs wound up escaping and hiding for seven years in her grandmother's attic, where she became physically weak, while Douglass's escape was unsuccessful until he reached the north. They both escaped north, where they became abolitionist speakers and wrote acclaimed slave narratives. 

slchanmo1885 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frederick Douglass, in his "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," recalls early memories of seeing slaves receive terrible beatings and horrific overseers who were cruel. Harriet Jacobs, in her "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" recalls a happy childhood, in which she was taught to sew and read, and was unaware that she could be bought or sold. It wasn't until Harriet was older that she was abused and treated badly. Frederick Douglass, on the other hand, had to sneak his reading and writing and does hard labor for slave owners who are very cruel his whole life, only briefly working under a kind family. When Douglass escapes, he goes North. Initially, Harriet Jacobs hides in a crawl-space at her grandmother's house for seven years before escaping to Philadelphia. Both Douglass and Jacobs end up working together in the abolitionist movement.

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