"Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" by Harriet Ann Jacobs: A Look at Oppression

Essay by endlesschrisCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 2007

download word file, 5 pages 0.0

Downloaded 74 times

The United States today is arguably the most powerful nation in the world. It is a country that is an epicenter for commerce and trade, for cultural and artistic endeavors, and for politics on a global scale. However this great nation carries with it a tremulous history, with roots of prejudice and hatred stretching back to its inception. One facet of this unfortunate past is of course the slave trade. For decades, African people were kidnapped from their native homes and they and their descendants were forced into slavery. Much of America's economic growth can be traced back to originating from this hated practice. Despite the barbaricism of it all, it took a nationwide war to finally bring a stop to it. Though it would never be forgotten, rather the horrors of slavery would live on in the tales of those who lived through it. Harriet Jacobs is one of those people.

Born into slavery in 1813, she endured many hardships, which she would later recount in her autobiographical narrative "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." She was originally forced to publish the book under a pseudonym to avoid retaliation, and it was only published overseas as American publishers did not want to associate themselves with it. But the story is a harrowing one, and a brilliant insight into the life of a female slave in America.

Jacobs' book describes the cruelties of what she calls the "Peculiar Institution" of slavery. Obviously slavery itself is cruel and inhumane, but piled atop that offence are countless other injustices practiced against these people. Regular are her horrible descriptions of the beatings, whippings and even burnings that were practiced upon an errant slave. However, also of note are the many indirect forms of violence that were used. Slaves were...