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.
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
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Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.