Monday, April 8, 2013

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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.
Harriet Jacobs
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.

If you enjoy American history, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is well worth reading!  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Shelly said...

Wow- this book is jumping everything else on my tbr list because I find it so compelling. Thank you for sharing!

Old Kitty said...

I've just read up on Harriet Jacob's wiki page! What a life! What a woman - how terrible! She and her children and her family were at the total whim of her "owners"! Poor woman! :-( Thank goodness the anti-slavery movement triumphed - but it's also very interesting how delicate the politics of it all was - the appeal of Jacob's book to white christian women to show not how inhumane slavery was per se but rather to highlight its effects on white male lust - so it must be bad! Oh dearie me!

Thank you for another cathartic and most enlightened piece about this awful part of US history! Take care

William Kendall said...

Horrendous! I haven't heard of her before, so thanks for pointing this out.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

This is a wonderful book that everyone should read.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Sounds fascinating! I can certainly see where it informed Escape, which was also a wonderful read.

The Desert Rocks said...

WElcome back and you're right those accounts must be very sad and painful to read.

Maria Perry Mohan said...

This is one for my TBR pile. Thanks for the link.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Shelly: It really is a compelling read!

@Kitty: So glad that part of the past is behind us!

@William: You're welcome. It really is fascinating reading, but so sad.

@Karen: Agreed!

@Jennette: Thank you! It really was a big help in my research. Glad you enjoyed the story!

@Eve: Thanks for the welcome back:). Those accounts are painful to read.

@Maria:It's a hard book to "enjoy", but it is a fascinating and compelling read.