“$300 Reward! Run away. An intelligent, bright, mulatto girl, named Harriet, 21 years of age. Five feet four inches high. Dark eyes, and black hair inclined to curl, but can be made straight. Has a decayed spot on front tooth. She can read and write, and in all probability will try to make it to the Free States….” Such was the advertisement posted in every public place in Edenton, North Carolina by her owner, a sadistic physician who lusted after her. This was in 1834.

For the next seven years Harriet Jacobs hid in the crawl space of her grandmother’s porch not far from the home of the physician and his wife and children until friends arranged her passage to New York. How she and her two children eventually gained their freedom fill the pages of this slim memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in1861 by Thayer and Eldrige of Boston.

Unlike other narratives composed by former slaves, Harriet’s witnesses to the evil of the Master-woman slave bondage, the latter, perceived as chattel to be abused or sold or killed. Only adherence to her grandmother’s principles sustained Harriet through chilling hardships.

Such testimony speaks to the evil that many women still experience, caught within the cross-hairs of men’s lust, an evil that damages psyches, often irreparably.

 

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