About the Book
To this good grandmother I was indebted for many comforts. My brother Willie and I often received portions of the crackers, cakes, and preserves, she made to sell; and after we ceased to be children we were indebted to her for many more important services.
Such were the unusually fortunate circumstances of my early childhood. When I was six years old, my mother died; and then, for the first time, I learned, by the talk around me, that I was a slave. My mother's mistress was the daughter of my grandmother's mistress. She was the foster sister of my mother; they were both nourished at my grandmother's breast. In fact, my mother had been weaned at three months old, that the babe of the mistress might obtain sufficient food. They played together as children; and, when they became women, my mother was a most faithful servant to her whiter foster sister. On her death-bed her mistress promised that her children should never suffer for any thing; and during her lifetime she kept her word. They all spoke kindly of my dead mother, who had been a slave merely in name, but in nature was noble and womanly. I grieved for her, and my young mind was troubled with the thought who would now take care of me and my little brother. I was told that my home was now to be with her mistress; and I found it a happy one. No toilsome or disagreeable duties were imposed on me. My mistress was so kind to me that I was always glad to do her bidding, and proud to labor for her as much as my young years would permit. I would sit by her side for hours, sewing diligently, with a heart as free from care as that of any free-born white child. When she thought I was tired, she would send me out to run and jump; and away I bounded, to gather berries or flowers to decorate her room. Those were happy days—too happy to last. The slave child had no thought for the morrow; but there came that blight, which too surely waits on every human being born to be a chattel.
When I was nearly twelve years old, my kind mistress sickened and died. As I saw the cheek grow paler, and the eye more glassy, how earnestly I prayed in my heart that she might live! I loved her; for she had been almost like a mother to me. My prayers were not answered. She died, and they buried her in the little churchyard, where, day after day, my tears fell upon her grave.
I was sent to spend a week with my grandmother. I was now old enough to begin to think of the future; and again and again I asked myself what they would do with me. I felt sure I should never find another mistress so kind as the one who was gone. She had promised my dying mother that her children should never suffer for any thing; and when I remembered that, and recalled her many proofs of attachment to me, I could not help having some hopes that she had left me free. My friends were almost certain it would be so. They thought she would be sure to do it, on account of my mother's love and faithful service. But, alas! we all know that the memory of a faithful slave does not avail much to save her children from the auction block.
After a brief period of suspense, the will of my mistress was read, and we learned that she had bequeathed me to her sister's daughter, a child of five years old. So vanished our hopes. My mistress had taught me the precepts of God's Word: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." But I was her slave, and I suppose she did not recognize me as her neighbor. I would give much to blot out from my memory that one great wrong. As a child, I loved my mistress; and, looking back on the happy days I spent with her, I try to think with less bitterness of this act of injustice. While I was with her, she taught me to read and spell; and for this privilege, which so rarely falls to the lot of a slave, I bless her memory.
She possessed but few slaves; and at her death those were all distributed among her relatives. Five of them were my grandmother's children, and had shared the same milk that nourished her mother's children. Notwithstanding my grandmother's long and faithful service to her owners, not one of her children escaped the auction block. These God-breathing machines are no more, in the sight of their masters, than the cotton they plant, or the horses they tend.
About the Book
It is the story of Harriet Jacobs who for safety has named herself as Linda Brent in narrative. Harriet Jacobs begins by discussing the childhood wherein she does not have an idea until her mother dies when she was only six years old. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Book has opened with the introduction wherein she has stated her reasons for the autobiography wherein it was seen that her story was painful and she had kept her life private.
However, in the future she felt that making the entire issue public could help the movement that is relating to antislavery. The book was significant in nature as it had allowed the readers in experiencing the travails and traits of the female slave in America and the readers understood the life of Harriet Jacobs as slave and her childhood was gone in slavery.
Influences of family and friend in the life of Jacob the elements were more bad than good. Aunt Martha was her grandmother who provided her love and support as well as spiritual guidance. She was previously a slave but is free now with all her other family members enslaved. William was Jacob’s brother who like other slaves seeks freedom and protects his sister all the time. Jacob had two children Ellen and Benny. She had a faithful old friend Betty who helped her hiding for sometimes. Beside all these family members and friend, Jacob was much influenced by the ideas of Mrs. Bruce the first who protects Jacob from Dr. Flint.
The relationship of Jacob with the White owners was not positive and it was hateful kind of relationship between them. Mr. Flint was the master of Linda, Mrs. Flint was mistress of Linda, and she was Dr. Flint’s wife as well. There was different kind of problems that were faced by Jacob due to MR. and Mrs. Flint, as they did not treat her in a proper manner. Mr. Flint was the enemy and would be lover of Linda and he felt he had the right to do anything with her and wanted to seduce her wherein Linda rebels and refused to perform such sexual dealings.
Mr. Flint used to become obsessed and enraged relating to breaking spirit of Linda and there was no feeling in Mr. Flint that Linda was a human being and he constantly fought with his wife and identified Linda as women slave (Jacobs). Furthermore, Mrs. Flint treated Linda viciously and she treated her brutally and was insensitive in nature.
The Life of Harriet Jacobs
The slavery was harder on females than the males as the female slaves as they were victims of sexual abuse and this had affected their lives in a huge negative manner. The female slaves were tortured and abused as per the needs of the white men and they did not have any such kind of sayings as well.
In chapter 10, Jacob refers to her relationship with the black carpenter who wanted to buy her freedom from Dr. Flint. He refused this offer of the free black who had tried to buy Jacob’s freedom. Dr. Flint wanted complete submission of his slave therefore he took a new way to win Jacob’s full submission to him. He strategized and told Jacob that he wanted to buy her a house as well as made her his lady. Due to this reason, Jacob desperately decided to make her free from Dr. Flint and entered in a sexual relationship with Mr. Sands (Jacobs p. 85). He was a white Lawyer and had a great affection for Jacob. She assumed that Mr. Sands would be a gentle man as he wanted to make her his mistress and buy her from Dr. Flint. Therefore, Jacob consented to his advances and got pregnant by this man. She experienced a moment of triumph when Dr. Flint approached her and she refused him by saying that she was impregnated by another man.
Jacob in chapters 12 and 13 has described the influence of Nat Turner rebellion that denounced the moral struggle between what the Christianity teaches them and their own experiences as the slaves. Here Jacob has addressed the broader issues of the black community as slaves. As an effect of Nat Turner insurrection, the lawless whites, used to ransack the slave cabins which was supported by the slave owners of the south. They terrorized black men, women even children because they started to perceive them as possible rebels. In addition to this, the hypocrisy of the Christian church has been also included in her account (Jacobs pp. 97-116). As religion morality and spirituality granted to be important themes in the black literature, religious powers also exploited the slaves through sermons or spirituals. In other words, the suppressors used religion and beliefs to be efficient tools to manage the slaves as inferior beings.
This book is all about the life and incidents of a slave girl Linda. This book revolves round her painful experience as a slave woman who has no permission to even breath without the permission from her owners. This story defines the corrupting power of slavery and domesticity as the paradise as well as prison. All the characters round her are actually inhuman who have no sympathy for the slaves and exploit limitlessly. They betray their slaves when profitable. The concept of slavery had distorted the most rudimentary emotional instincts such as the affection of the parents for their child. The slave systems had a far reaching effect on the moral development of the slaves. As the author states that they had no reason to be moral because they were forced to endure the beatings and lynching on them. Their mental as well as spiritual anguish led to the psychological abuses of slavery.
The most important aspect that has been learnt was relating to the condition wherein others own the individuals and they work under the other individuals. In the book, it has been seen that Harriet Jacob has experienced lot of evils such as sexual abuse and other issues in her lifetime. It was seen that Harriet Jacobs was under constant supervision wherein she did not have knowledge regarding the words she spoke can be dangerous and this can affect her life. The important aspect was relating to the intense hopelessness and lack of security in the family.
The other issue of slavery that was understood from the respective book was relating to the powerlessness in deciding where the children will stay and their protection was under big question as well. The parents were not capable for protecting their children in an effective manner and this has caused increased resentment towards their masters as well. It fostered hatred towards the white men in general that has affected their lives in a negative manner.
The book was interesting and it has helped me in understanding the different forms of slavery and their negative effects on the individuals. I had gained knowledge relating to the problems faced by them after the death of their mother and father during the Jacob’s youth. It has helped me in understanding the slavery activities that took place in the year 1850s and the explosive issues that has created effects in all over United States. I would recommend this book to others as this is an inspiring story of Harriet Jacob who fought against slavery and how she led her life in the future in a peaceful manner.
Jacobs, Harriet. The Life of a Slave Girl. BookRix, 2017.