Harriet Jacobs is very clear that the aim of her entire memoir is to convince readers of the evils of slavery. In the epigraph, she quotes a North Carolina woman, who says,
Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation involved in that word, SLAVERY; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown.
One might, therefore, select almost any incident from the book at random to illustrate the evils of slavery. Certain points, however, are made over and over again. One is that the slaves are not regarded or treated as human beings. When the author’s father dies, she is not allowed to go to his house; she is forced to make decorations for a party her mistress is giving, since, as far as her mistress is concerned, her father “was merely a piece of property.” Another frequent point is that the masters seem to enjoy whipping and humiliating their slaves, even finding new ways to torment them, as when Dr. Flint forces his cook to eat dog food. In the same chapter, the author recounts,
I once saw a young slave girl dying soon after the birth of a child nearly white. In her agony she cried out, "O Lord, come and take me!" Her mistress stood by, and mocked at her like an incarnate fiend. "You suffer, do you?" she exclaimed. "I am glad of it. You deserve it all, and more too."
Presumably the mistress realized that the girl had been raped by her (the mistress's) husband, yet she still blamed the girl, jeering at her as she died. Such instances of abuse abound throughout the narrative, accompanied by the point that justice and protection, which the law provides to free people, are always inaccessible to the slave. When the author’s master begins to sexually assault her and she attempts to resist, she is completely helpless:
He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection? No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death...
Many of the evils of slavery are clear at first sight in any case, but it would be difficult for any reader to remain unconvinced of its appalling effects on all parties after reading page after page in which such events are commonplace.