What is the story "Life as a slave girl" by Harriet A. Jacobs about?

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of Harriet Jacob's work is Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and while it's fair to call it a "story," a more precsie term might be "slave narrative."

A number of freed slaves wrote anti-slavery works in the early to mid-1800s. These "slave narratives" were often published by abolitionist presses in the northern United States and were generally used to attempt to strengthen the opposition to slavery by showing, through detailed first-hand accounts, the inhumanity and brutality of that system.

One of the most famous slave narratives was written by Frederick Douglass. Harriet Jacob's slave narrative is probably of equal importance because it was written by a woman who had been a slave and talks, much more than most of the other such narratives, about how black slave women were sometimes sexually exploited by their white masters and were at a disadvantage in many ways (e.g. in trying to escape) because they often were worried about the fate of their children.

Jacob's story is a excellent text to read, even if the language seems a little old-fashioned to the modern reader. It's about as long as a short novel. Give it a try and let me know what you think of it.

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