Harriet Jacobs, Frances E. W. Harper, and Anna Julia Cooper are three African American female writers who have greatly impacted the progress of "black womanhood." Through their works, they have successfully dispelled the myths created about black women. These myths include two major ideas, the first being that all African American women are perceived as more promiscuous than the average white woman. The second myth is that black women are virtually useless, containing only the capabilities of working in white homes and raising white children. These myths caused these women to be degraded in the eyes of others as well as themselves. In Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harper's Iola Leroy, and Cooper's A Voice From the South, womanhood is defined in ways that have destroyed these myths. As seen through these literary works, womanhood is defined according to one's sexuality, spirituality, beauty, identity, relationships, and motherhood.
Harriet Jacobs was born in 1813 into a slave family. Her father, a carpenter, was highly skilled in his trade. For the first few years of her life, Jacobs lived a happy, normal childhood. She was fortunate enough to live in the same household as her parents and her younger brother, William. When she turned six, her mother passed away, leaving her under the care of her grandmother. In her narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet describes her life as a southern slave, calling herself Linda. She discusses the abuse she endured during servitude and how she managed to overcome it.
After twenty-seven years of servitude, Jacobs escapes to a life of freedom. She spent the rest of her days working as a reformer, a Civil War and R...
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... the strength black women have mentally as well as physically. Their involvement in various Women's Groups has also helped to create a better image for black women. Throughout their lives, they have shown that whatever obstacles a good black woman may face, you can never keep her down!
Cooper, Anna J. A Voice From the South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Harper, Frances. Iola Leroy. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
Hutchinson, Louise Daniel. Anna J. Cooper, A Voice From the South. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.
Jacobs, Harriet. "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. 333-513.
Pellow, David W. H. "Anna Julia Cooper." Notable Black American Women. Ed. Jessie Carney Smith. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1992. P. 218-224.
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