Harriet Jacobs 

Harriet Jacobs was a former slave, famous for writing and self publishing her autiobiography, 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl' under the pseudonym Linda Brent. Though Harriet changed the names of all involved, she is credited with being one of the first women to openly reveal the hazards of being a female slave.

See below to read more about Harriet Jacobs.
Date of Birth and Family:
Harriet Ann Jacobs was born on 11 February 1813, North Carolina to Elijah Knox and Delilah Horniblow. On Delilah's death in 1819, Harriet was cared for by her mistress, Margaret Horniblow, and taught to read and write. After her mistress' death six years later, Harriet was gifted to Margaret Horniblow's niece. This left her at the mercy of Dr Norcom, the father of her new five year old mistress. Though Harriet lived with the Norcoms, she relied heavily on her grandmother, Molly, to feed and clothe her.

Date of Death:
7 March 1897, Washington

Children and Dr Norcom's Advances:
At the age of fifteen, Harriet received Dr Norcom's unwanted advances. Convinced she would be left alone if she took a white lover, the following year Harriet Jacobs had a baby named Joseph, with lawyer Samuel Sawyer. Some years later, Harriet went on to have Louisa, also fathered by Samuel.

Unfortunately Harriet Jacobs had underestimated Dr Norcom's desire to possess her; after years of wheedling, threats and pleas, Harriet was forced to choose to submit to her mistress' father or allow her family to suffer harsh plantation life with Dr Norcom's recently married son.

Escape:
Knowing that Dr Norcom would not sell the children to their father whilst they remained a useful bargaining tool, Harriet Jacobs rationalised that if she ran away, the children would be considered a burden and of no further use. They would then be sold, purchased by Samuel, and reunited with her when it was safe.

Again Harriet miscalculated the extent to which Dr Norcom was prepared to go in order to maintain control; instead of the children being sold as expected, they were put in jail for two months in order to fludh Harriet from her hiding place at a friend's house. Upon their release, the children were purchased by a slave trader who had been secretly instructed by Samuel, and sold to their father.

Harriet Jacobs then spent seven years hiding in the crawl space of her grandmother's shed unbeknownst to her children whilst Dr Norcom became obsessed in his efforts to track her down.

Freedom and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl:
With much difficulty, at the age of twenty eight, Harriet eventually escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, where she ran an anti-slavery bookshop. It was here that she met abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass and abolitionist Amy Post, the latter convincing Harriet in 1853 to write an account of her experience as a slave. This became the autobiography 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl' , published under the pseudonym Linda Brent.

Through the effort of friends, Harriet Jacobs was eventually emancipated in 1852. Harriet travelled to England in 1858 in an attempt to obtain support of publishers before deciding to self publish in 1861.

Later Life:
In 1862 Harriet Jacobs accompanied the Female Anti-Slavery Society to promote her book in Philadelphia. The 'Jacobs School' was founded in Alexandria, Viriginia in 1863-1865 by herself and her daughter where teachers of both races worked alongside each other. Harriet Jacobs moved to Georgia to assist with relief work for the freed slaves upon the end of the Civil War.


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