One of the first personal narratives written by an ex-slave, this is also one of the few written by a woman. Harriet Jacobs (1813-97) was enslaved, along with her family, in North Carolina under a ruthless master who sexually harassed her. After several failed escape attempts, and several years of hiding, she finally made her way North to freedom, where she was eventually reunited with her children. The book was published in 1861.
Literate Harriet Jacobs escaped from slavery after many tries, finally freeing herself of a cruel, sexually abusive master. Jacobs survived to write and expose the horrors of life in slavery. Her autobiography substantiates the abuse endured by female slaves. Jacobs writes about her past with an almost academic detachment. Having survived she evolves into a historian, bent on accurately recording the damning truth for the purpose of social indictment. Narrator Jean Barrett’s calm conversational tone matches Jacobs’ understated language. Just like Jacobs, Barrett sounds educated and self-possessed. There is subdued passion in her voice, but no hysteria. Barrett’s precise speech and ironically polite oration underscores the miserable details of what Jacobs endured and triumphed over.
"One of the major autobiographies of the African American tradition." (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
"Harriet Jacobs in her narrative reveals how she refused to be victimized within her own mind, but rather chose to act instead from a steadfast conviction of her own worth.... Hers is an example worth emulating even in these modern times." (Louise Meriwether)
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