I’m a bit of a history buff. I enjoy historical books if they aren’t too dry. Quite a while ago I looking through the free kindle books and I found one with the title of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself. It was written by Harriet Ann Jacobs under the assumed name of Linda Brent. I was intrigued. It sounded historical and interesting. Being free was just a bonus since the only thing better than a good book is a free good book.
I was not disappointed in Incidents int he Life of a Slave Girl. Since Linda is the name she gave herself in the book that is the name I will use. Linda was born a save, but didn’t know it until her mother died when she was six. She wrote: “I was so fondly shielded that I never dreamed I was a piece of merchandise, trusted to [my parents] for safe keeping, and liable to be demanded of them at any moment.” And that moment did come after the death of her mother. She was sent to live with her owner, a kindly elderly lady who let her have a childhood with time to romp and play.
In the life of a slave all good things come to an end. Linda’s kindly mistress died when she was twelve. Until the day the will was read Linda hoped that the ultimate kindness had been done and that she had been freed. Instead she had been bequeathed to a niece who was all of five years old. So to a new household she went.
In Dr. Flint’s household she was to learn to full extent the degradation of slavery. Linda was very light-skinned, her great-grandfather on her mother’s side being a white man. As she grew older she grew very beautiful. Dr. Flint had more than the seven children his lawful wife had given him. More than one of his girl slaves had been victimized by him. The older and more beautiful Linda grew the more he coveted her. He tried as many ways as her could to get her alone so he could rape her. Linda managed to always escape the physical act but she could not avoid his cruel and vulgar taunts during the day.
Eventually she decided to sleep with a white man in town in an effort to keep her master away from her. When she was almost ready to go into labor she tried to run away but gave up and went back because she did go into labor. Another child came along by the same white man and Linda was at her wit’s end. She did not want her children to be slaves.
She was able to live with her freed grandmother for several years with her children. Then Dr. Flint began to torment her again. Her lover and her grandmother both tried to buy her freedom and that of the children, but Dr. Flint was determined to never let her go.
Eventually Linda ran away again. She didn’t get far however. She remained hidden in the same town for seven years before finding a way to get to the North.
It was an amazing story with all sorts of riveting details. It served as a complete contrast to the picture of slavery that slaveholders tried to portray. Many of the things she wrote attested to the barbarity of one person owning another. She related some of the horrible ways that slaves were punished.
It was not a comfortable book to read. The horrors related by Harriet are many and varied. It is an awful testament that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It may not have been a comfortable read, but it is a reminder that some practices should not ever be permitted.
While there is some swearing, I believe it is all quotes from the slave-owning masters. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about slavery from the slave’s point of view.