Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl: Harriet Jacobs

Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl: Harriet Jacobs

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Harriet Jacobs and The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

From 1813 to 1879, lived a woman of great dignity, strong will, and one desire. A woman who was considered nothing more than just a slave girl would give anything for the freedom for herself and her two children. Harriet Jacobs, who used the pen name Linda Brent, compiled her life into a little book called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Mrs. Jacobs' story, once read, will leave nothing but pity and heart ache for her readers as they discover the life she had to endure. She however boldly states, "[I] earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse. I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is."(preface 1) Harriet Jacobs wanted to show the people who were not experiencing slavery exactly was going on in hopes that it would influence them to bring a stop to it. Though you cannot help but pity Harriet Jacobs, you can also take her story and the hard ships she endured and realize how strong a woman she truly was.
Harriet was born into slavery. Although, it was not until she was the age of six that she actually realized she was a slave girl. Her life was filled with love from those who surrounded her. They were her mother who she was very fond of, her younger brother whom she considered a bright child, and her grandmother who was like a treasure to her. Harriet's father was living and worked out of state to support his family. After some years her mother passed away and left Harriet and her brother, William, to the care of her mistress. Harriet loved her new mistress and treated her as though she were her own mother. When Harriet was twelve, her mistress passed. In the will her mistress left her to her sister's daughter at the young age of five. Mr. Flint became her new ‘master'. Mr. Flint was fond of Harriet because she was different from the other slaves. She carried herself with respect and was in fact a hard worker. Mr.

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Flint took his fondness a little to far when he started to pursue a relationship with Harriet. It was during this time in Harriet's life that she learned to stand up for herself and became very stubborn in fact. Mr. Flint made several offers to Harriet while she was living in his house that would insure that she would remain his slave and that he would protect her. She wanted no such thing; to be owned by such an awful person was something she would not allow herself to be confined in. This outraged Mr. Flint and he promised that as long as Harriet was living she would remain a slave. In the later years Harriet had two children by a lawyer and hoped that in the near future he would buy her children's freedom. While this freedom was not coming soon enough for Harriet, she began to plan a way to escape.
The thought of being someone else's property is the one thing that Harriet could not handle. She began to make it her number one goal to obtain freedom for her and her children in the free states. As Harriet set out to plan this freedom, she never imagined it would be years before she would accomplish anything. As any slave knows the children of the slave follow in the mother's footsteps and are owned by the mother's master. Harriet's grandmother made several attempts to purchase Harriet and her two children, yet Mr. Flint was refusing to give up ownership to any of them. He would merely say that it was his daughter's property and he had no right to sell it, as he reminded Harriet he had made several offers to her in the past. Harriet was so anxious to leave that when the opportunity came she took it without any hesitation. Her children were staying with her grandmother as she left one night with a friend to start the journey of freedom.
Little did Harriet know that her first destination would be the very house she grew up in; which was the house where her grandmother and children resided. The next seven years passed as Harriet lived in a tiny hole in the attic roof. Harriet remained strong. She knew if she were to reveal where she was she and her children's lives would be at danger because Mr. Flint was on a man hunt and after seven years he was still in the North looking for her. The one thing that kept Harriet going was the love she felt for her children. She knew the kind of life they would live as slaves, especially under Mr. Flint's hand. She often wrote of how she could watch them play in the summer and hear them talking in the hall. As these seven years passed in her little hole, Harriet became even stronger. She has been determined on reaching her goal of freedom for too long to give up now. As long as her children were safe, she knew she must go on so that she could ensure their safety forever. Eventually Mr. Flint sold the children to their father and they moved to the North to live. Soon after this Harriet's long stay in her tiny hole came to an end and she came closer to ending her journey as she traveled to the North. She knows now that her children are safe out of the hands of Dr. Flint. She is now anxious to reunite with them and find freedom for herself. Still the one thing that is moving Harriet along is the love for her children and the desire to see them happy and free.
Reaching the North was a relief for Harriet as the first breath of freedom filled her lungs when she stepped off the boat. Her strength and determination had gotten her thus far and now she must use them to survive. Not long after her arrival she was reunited with her daughter and was ensured of her safety and the good treatment she received. She soon found work in a nice home and found friendship with a woman named Mrs. Bruce, whom she worked for. Harriet's secure feelings would not last long. She was still a runaway slave and was the property of Mr. Flint's daughter. Harriet had been through several struggles over the years in her life. Coming to the North would not end them. There was another struggle she would have to over come before her one desire in life could come true.
Her mistress, Mr. Flint's daughter, was married and sent her husband to the North in search of Harriet. Immediately after hearing the news, Mrs. Bruce sent Harriet away until the search was over. If one can only imagine, the despair Harriet must have felt to know that the running was not over yet. Once again her determination to be free kept her hopes up. The Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1793. This law required people in the free states to return the runaway slave to their owners and made it against the law to protect them. Mrs. Bruce knew something must be done as she offered to buy Harriet's freedom. Three hundred dollars was all it took as Mrs. Bruce sent word for Harriet to come home because she had bought her freedom. I can only imagine the thoughts going through Harriet's mind as she read that letter. "Friend! It is a common word, often lightly used. Like other good and beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling, but when I speak of Mrs. Bruce as my friend the word is sacred!"( 227) These are the words Harriet used to describe how she feels toward Mrs. Bruce. She feels as though there is no one else who is as worthy to hold the name friend as Mrs. Bruce does and she is probably right. Mrs. Bruce gave Harriet the one thing she had desired her entire life, her freedom.
Through Harriet's story one can learn a lot about courage and determination. Harriet had many struggles in her life from the mistreating by Mr. Flint, living in a hole for seven years, and having to run once more when she finally felt safe. It was through these struggles that gave Harriet the determination to never give up. She didn't; therefore, she reached her goal and her prize was her freedom for her and her children.
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