Harriet Jacobs



Born to North Carolina slaves in the early 19th century, Harriet Jacobs experienced all of the evils of American slavery. She was abused, mistreated, assaulted, and beaten. She lived with her mother who was owned by the Horniblow family, and by luck she was taught to read and write by Mistress Horniblow. Jacobs' life changed from tolerable suffering to unendurable abuse when she was passed to a new master, James Norcom, who subjected her to psychological and sexual abuses of all kinds. At age 22, the abuse became too much to bear, and Jacobs went into hiding in a small attic in her grandmother's home, where she hid and watched her children and her former life through a small crack in the wall. She eventually went to Philadelphia, and finally made her way to New York where she ultimately secured her freedom. She worked as a nursemaid, and wrote on the side, publishing some of her slavery experiences in the New York Tribune, until her serial story was cancelled because it was too shocking for some readers. She continued to write and work, and her book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was published in Boston in 1861.

(Compiled by Joey Franklin)

See also

Essays by Harriet Jacobs

Free at last

There are wrongs which even the grave does not bury.

The fugitive slave law

What a disgrace to a city calling itself free, that inhabitants, guiltless of offence, and seeking to perform their duties conscientiously, should be condemned to live in such incessant fear, and have nowhere to turn for protection!
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies. If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.

"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier

2011 Symposium on the Essay
Welcome Table Press Symposium on the Essay

Friend of Quotidiana Kim Dana Kupperman's Welcome Table Press is hosting a one-day symposium at Fordham University on Saturday, October 15th, 2011. In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form will feature talks and discussions by Phillip Lopate, Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, and more.


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