Just this morning as I was wondering what to blog about, my friend, Lisa, sent me this fascinating link. What a wonderful topic to blog about--thank you, Lisa! While writing my novel Escape, I used Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to help me in my research. For those unfamiliar with Harriet Jacobs' narrative, it provides a fascinating, heartbreaking and almost unbelievable account of a slave girl's life and her eventual pursuit of freedom for herself and her children.
According to Wikipedia, Jacobs began writing Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl while living and working at
Idlewild, the Hudson River home of writer and publisher Nathaniel
Parker Willis, who was fictionalized in the book as Mr. Bruce. Portions of the book
were published in serial form in the New-York Tribune, owned and edited by Horace Greeley. Jacobs's
reports of sexual abuse were considered too shocking to the average newspaper reader of the day, and
publication ceased before the completion of the narrative.
Incidents in the Life
of a Slave Girl was published as a complete work in 1861. The book was originally
written as a way for Jacobs to tell her story and assist in the efforts of the abolitionist movement. It was also hoped that it would appeal to white affluent middle class women. At that time, they were the ones most likely to read this
type of literature. When the book was published, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was still
in existence. This made it a felony for anyone who found a runaway slave not to
return the slave to his/her owner. The events in the book displayed the extraordinary impact of the Fugitive Slave Act and its influence on the actions of those in the north as well as the south.