Anti Slavery and Slave Narratives (Literature)

PART 1: Please choose one of the four below and write a 200-250 passage regarding it ( I HAVE ATTACHED DOCUMENTS AND READINGS TO HELP). Additionally, please write a 150 word response to the other’s you didn’t select (THIS WILL HELP WITH MY FORUM RESPONSES).1) In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriett Beecher Stowe uses the character Augustine St. Clare to state a popularly held notion at the time that slavery is worse for the master than for the slave. Discuss your thoughts about this notion. 2) Discuss the concept that slaves are better off with their masters than they would be on their own. 3) Look at how Stowe’s zeal for the subject of anti-slavery and her numerous Biblical references might impact her narrative as a whole. What, if any, qualities make it melodramatic or sentimental? 4) Throughout this work there are overarching ideas about the institution of slavery, slave holders, families, politics and/or the economy. Consider and discuss any or a combination of these topics. Part 2: Harriet Jacobs in “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” presents herself as a teenager. Choose and describe some of the challenges Linda Brent faced while she lived under Flint; there are many and they are varied in complexity. Be sure to support your assertions with quotes and cites from the source.Submission Instructions:Your initial discussion should be at least 200 words. Please also respond to a minimum of two of your classmates’ initial posts and bring together pieces of the discussion and take those ideas further. These responses should be at least 150 words.In closing, a Part ONE and part TWO are needed to complete the initial forum post of 200 words or more, but you need to only write about ONE of the scenarios from part ONE. Additionally, please create 3 total responses of at least 150 words each from the questions that you didn’t answer from part ONE. If this doesn’t make sense, please don’t hesitate to ask! Thanks.
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403
Week Fourteen: Slave
Narratives
404
Perkins-Perkins:
LITR220
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
Author Bio
© The McGraw-Hill
Companies, 2007
HARRIET JACOBS
(1813–1897)
In a letter to an abolitionist friend, Jacobs de?ned herself as “a poor Slave Mother”
pleading for security and freedom for her own children and for the children of
other mothers still in bondage. Throughout her memoir, Incidents in the Life of a
Slave Girl, she emphasized the special suffering of women and girls under slavery;
and despite the pained embarrassment she felt in exposing her own life, Jacobs
used descriptions of the lecherous persecution she experienced as a teenage servant at the hands of the master she calls “Dr. Flint” (Dr. James Norcom) to illustrate her plea.
Jacobs was born in Edenton, North Carolina. Her light-skinned parents were
slaves, but when Harriet was young, they were able to live as a married couple and
provide a home for their daughter and son. Daniel, her father, was a carpenter who
paid his mistress a yearly fee for the right to contract his services out for pay; Jacobs described her mother, Delilah, as “a slave merely in name, but in nature noble
and womanly.” When Jacobs was six years old, her mother died, and for the ?rst
time, she had to make her home with her slave mistress, Margaret Horniblow. Mrs.
Horniblow was kind to the child, but when she died, six years later, she willed her
slave to a three-year-old niece, Mary Martha Norcom, whose father was to become
the young woman’s persecutor. When Daniel Jacobs died the following year, his
daughter was left with only the scant protection of her maternal grandmother,
Molly Horniblow (called “Aunt Martha” in the text), who had been freed by her
South Carolina master and father at his death and who operated a thriving baking
business out of her home.
Dr. Flint ?rst proposed that Jacobs have sex with him when she was ?fteen
years old, reminding her that “I was his property [and] I must be subject to his
will in all things.” Though the other slaves pitied her, they were powerless to help;
her mistress hated the girl out of jealousy and would not intercede. “She pitied
herself as a martyr; but she was incapable of feeling for the condition of shame
and misery in which her unfortunate, helpless slave was placed.” When Jacobs fell
in love with a freeborn carpenter who wanted to buy her freedom, Dr. Flint refused to allow the match and, striking her in the face, reminded her that he could
kill her with impunity if he chose to.
Faced with Dr. Flint’s threat that he would build a house in a remote location
and force her to live there as his mistress, Jacobs entered into a sexual relationship
with Samuel Tredwell Sawyer (called “Mr. Sands”), an unmarried white attorney
soon to be elected to Congress. He fathered two children, Joseph Jacobs (called
“Benny” in the text) and Louisa Matilda (called “Ellen”) and promised to buy
their freedom from Dr. Flint. The children were allowed to live with their greatgrandmother, but their status was of major concern to Jacobs because, as the children of a slave, they were legally the property of their mother’s master.
Perkins-Perkins:
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
Author Bio
© The McGraw-Hill
Companies, 2007
Harriet Jacobs: Author Bio
After seven years of hiding in a cramped attic space on her grandmother’s
property, Jacobs escaped to the North in 1842. There she was reunited with her
children and became an active worker in the abolition movement. With the encouragement of antislavery activists, she prepared her memoirs for publication,
using the pseudonym Linda Brent. When the book ?nally appeared in 1861, it
was one of the few slave narratives told by a woman out of the hundred or more
in print before the Civil War. After a brief ?urry of interest the account was all but
forgotten; newly focused attention by African American and feminist scholars has
again brought Jacobs’s story to the attention of American readers.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was “published for the author” in Boston in 1861 as “Edited by
L. Maria Child.” It was reprinted in London in 1862 as The Deeper Wrong; Or, Incidents in the Life of
a Slave Girl. The text is taken from the ?rst American edition. Modern editions with informative introductions include Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin, 1987, and Incidents in the
Life of a Slave Girl, intro. Valerie Smith, 1988.
405
406
Perkins-Perkins:
LITR220
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
from Incidents in the Life of
a Slave Girl
© The McGraw-Hill
Companies, 2007
HARRIET JACOBS
From Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
VI: The Jealous Mistress
I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered among the slaves of America. I would
rather drudge out my life on a cotton plantation, till the grave opened to give me
rest, than to live with an unprincipled master and a jealous mistress. The felon’s
home in a penitentiary is preferable. He may repent, and turn from the error of his
ways, and so ?nd peace; but it is not so with a favorite slave. She is not allowed to
have any pride of character. It is deemed a crime in her to wish to be virtuous.
Mrs. Flint1 possessed the key to her husband’s character before I was born.
She might have used this knowledge to counsel and to screen the young and the
innocent among her slaves; but for them she had no sympathy. They were the objects of her constant suspicion and malevolence. She watched her husband with
unceasing vigilance; but he was well practised in means to evade it. What he could
not ?nd opportunity to say in words he manifested in signs. He invented more
than were ever thought of in a deaf and dumb asylum. I let them pass, as if I did
not understand what he meant; and many were the curses and threats bestowed
on me for my stupidity. One day he caught me teaching myself to write. He
frowned, as if he was not well pleased; but I suppose he came to the conclusion
that such an accomplishment might help to advance his favorite scheme. Before
long, notes were often slipped into my hand. I would return them, saying, “I can’t
read them, sir.” “Can’t you?” he replied; “then I must read them to you.” He always ?nished the reading by asking, “Do you understand?” Sometimes he would
complain of the heat of the tea room, and order his supper to be placed on a small
table in the piazza. He would seat himself there with a well-satis?ed smile, and tell
me to stand by and brush away the ?ies. He would eat very slowly, pausing between the mouthfuls. These intervals were employed in describing the happiness
I was so foolishly throwing away, and in threatening me with the penalty that
?nally awaited my stubborn disobedience. He boasted much of the forbearance he
had exercised towards me, and reminded me that there was a limit to his patience.
When I succeeded in avoiding opportunities for him to talk to me at home, I was
ordered to come to his of?ce, to do some errand. When there, I was obliged to
stand and listen to such language as he saw ?t to address me. Sometimes I so
openly expressed my contempt for him that he would become violently enraged,
and I wondered why he did not strike me. Circumstanced as he was, he probably
thought it was better policy to be forbearing. But the state of things grew worse
1. The James Norcom family of Edenton, North Carolina, referred to as the Flints, were owners of the
slave Harriet Jacobs. All the ?gures are referred to by pseudonyms, including Jacobs.
Perkins-Perkins:
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
© The McGraw-Hill
from Incidents in the Life of
Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Companies, 2007
a Slave Girl
and worse daily. In desperation I told him that I must and would apply to my
grandmother2 for protection. He threatened me with death, and worse than death,
if I made any complaint to her. Strange to say, I did not despair. I was naturally of
a buoyant disposition, and always I had a hope of somehow getting out of his
clutches. Like many a poor, simple slave before me, I trusted that some threads of
joy would yet be woven into my dark destiny.
I had entered my sixteenth year, and every day it became more apparent that
my presence was intolerable to Mrs. Flint. Angry words frequently passed between
her and her husband. He had never punished me himself, and he would not allow
any body else to punish me. In that respect, she was never satis?ed; but, in her
angry moods, no terms were too vile for her to bestow upon me. Yet I, whom she
detested so bitterly, had far more pity for her than he had, whose duty it was to
make her life happy. I never wronged her, or wished to wrong her; and one word
of kindness from her would have brought me to her feet.
After repeated quarrels between the doctor and his wife, he announced his intention to take his youngest daughter, then four years old, to sleep in his apartment. It was necessary that a servant should sleep in the same room, to be on hand
if the child stirred. I was selected for that of?ce, and informed for what purpose
that arrangement had been made. By managing to keep within sight of people, as
much as possible, during the day time, I had hitherto succeeded in eluding my
master, though a razor was often held to my throat to force me to change this line
of policy. At night I slept by the side of my great aunt, where I felt safe. He was
too prudent to come into her room. She was an old woman, and had been in the
family many years. Moreover, as a married man, and a professional man, he deemed
it necessary to save appearances in some degree. But he resolved to remove the obstacle in the way of his scheme; and he thought he had planned it so that he should
evade suspicion. He was well aware how much I prized my refuge by the side of
my old aunt, and he determined to dispossess me of it. The ?rst night the doctor
had the little child in his room alone. The next morning, I was ordered to take my
station as nurse the following night. A kind Providence interposed in my favor.
During the day Mrs. Flint heard of this new arrangement, and a storm followed. I
rejoiced to hear it rage.
After a while my mistress sent for me to come to her room. Her ?rst question
was, “Did you know you were to sleep in the doctor’s room?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Who told you?”
“My master.”
“Will you answer truly all the questions I ask?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Tell me, then, as you hope to be forgiven, are you innocent of what I have
accused you?”
“I am.”
2. Jacobs’s grandmother, Molly Horniblow, was a free woman who supported herself by baking and
was a respected member of the community.
407
408
Perkins-Perkins:
LITR220
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
from Incidents in the Life of
a Slave Girl
© The McGraw-Hill
Companies, 2007
She handed me a Bible, and said, “Lay your hand on your heart, kiss this holy
book, and swear before God that you tell me the truth.”
I took the oath she required, and I did it with a clear conscience.
“You have taken God’s holy word to testify your innocence,” said she. “If
you have deceived me, beware! Now take this stool, sit down, look me directly in
the face, and tell me all that has passed between your master and you.”
I did as she ordered. As I went on with my account her color changed frequently, she wept, and sometimes groaned. She spoke in tones so sad, that I was
touched by her grief. The tears came to my eyes; but I was soon convinced that
her emotions arose from anger and wounded pride. She felt that her marriage vows
were desecrated, her dignity insulted; but she had no compassion for the poor victim of her husband’s per?dy. She pitied herself as a martyr; but she was incapable
of feeling for the condition of shame and misery in which her unfortunate, helpless slave was placed.
Yet perhaps she had some touch of feeling for me; for when the conference
was ended, she spoke kindly, and promised to protect me. I should have been much
comforted by this assurance if I could have had con?dence in it; but my experiences in slavery had ?lled me with distrust. She was not a very re?ned woman,
and had not much control over her passions. I was an object of her jealousy, and,
consequently, of her hatred; and I knew I could not expect kindness or con?dence
from her under the circumstances in which I was placed. I could not blame her.
Slaveholders’ wives feel as other women would under similar circumstances. The
?re of her temper kindled from small sparks, and now the ?ame became so intense
that the doctor was obliged to give up his intended arrangement.
I knew I had ignited the torch, and I expected to suffer for it afterwards; but I
felt too thankful to my mistress for the timely aid she rendered me to care much
about that. She now took me to sleep in a room adjoining her own. There I was an
object of her especial care, though not of her especial comfort, for she spent many
a sleepless night to watch over me. Sometimes I woke up, and found her bending
over me. At other times she whispered in my ear, as though it was her husband who
was speaking to me, and listened to hear what I would answer. If she startled me,
on such occasions, she would glide stealthily away; and the next morning she would
tell me I had been talking in my sleep, and ask who I was talking to. At last, I began
to be fearful for my life. It had been often threatened; and you can imagine, better
than I can describe, what an unpleasant sensation it must produce to wake up in
the dead of night and ?nd a jealous woman bending over you. Terrible as this experience was, I had fears that it would give place to one more terrible.
My mistress grew weary of her vigils; they did not prove satisfactory. She
changed her tactics. She now tried the trick of accusing my master of crime, in my
presence, and gave my name as the author of the accusation. To my utter astonishment, he replied, “I don’t believe it: but if she did acknowledge it, you tortured her
into exposing me.” Tortured into exposing him! Truly, Satan had no dif?culty in
distinguishing the color of his soul! I understood his object in making this false representation. It was to show me that I gained nothing by seeking the protection of
my mistress; that the power was still all in his own hands. I pitied Mrs. Flint. She
was a second wife,3 many years the junior of her husband; and the hoary-headed
3. Mary Matilda Horniblow Norcom.
Perkins-Perkins:
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
© The McGraw-Hill
from Incidents in the Life of
Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Companies, 2007
a Slave Girl
miscreant was enough to try the patience of a wiser and better woman. She was
completely foiled, and knew not how to proceed. She would gladly have had me
?ogged for my supposed false oath; but, as I have already stated, the doctor never
allowed any one to whip me. The old sinner was politic. The application of the
lash might have led to remarks that would have exposed him in the eyes of his children and grandchildren. How often did I rejoice that I lived in a town where all the
inhabitants knew each other! If I had been on a remote plantation, or lost among
the multitude of a crowded city, I should not be a living woman at this day.
The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. My master
was, to my knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell
who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible
consequences.
My grandmother could not avoid seeing things which excited her suspicions.
She was uneasy about me, and tried various ways to buy me; but the neverchanging answer was always repeated: “Linda does not belong to me. She is my daughter’s property, and I have no legal right to sell her.” The conscientious man! He
was too scrupulous to sell me; but he had no scruples whatever about committing
a much greater wrong against the helpless young girl placed under his guardianship, as his daughter’s property. Sometimes my persecutor would ask me whether
I would like to be sold. I told him I would rather be sold to any body than to lead
such a life as I did. On such occasions he would assume the air of a very injured
individual, and reproach me for my ingratitude. “Did I not take you into the
house, and make you the companion of my own children?” he would say. “Have I
ever treated you like a negro? I have never allowed you to be punished, not even
to please your mistress. And this is the recompense I get, you ungrateful girl!” I
answered that he had reasons of his own for screening me from punishment, and
that the course he pursued made my mistress hate me and persecute me. If I wept,
he would say, “Poor child! Don’t cry! don’t cry! I will make peace for you with
your mistress. Only let me arrange matters in my own way. Poor, foolish girl! you
don’t know what is for your own good. I would cherish you. I would make a lady
of you. Now go, and think of all I have promised you.”
I did think of it.
Reader, I draw no imaginary pictures of southern homes. I am telling you the
plain truth. Yet when victims make their escape from this wild beast of Slavery,
northerners consent to act the part of bloodhounds, and hunt the poor fugitive
back into his den, “full of dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness.”4 Nay, more,
they are not only willing, but proud, to give their daughters in marriage to slaveholders. The poor girls have romantic notions of a sunny clime, and of the ?owering vines that all the year round shade a happy home. To what disappointments
are they destined! The young wife soon learns that the husband in whose hands
she has placed her happiness pays no regard to his marriage vows. Children of
every shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too well she knows
4. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulcres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness”
(Matthew 23:27).
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Perkins-Perkins:
LITR220
Selections from American
Literature
Harriet Jacobs
from Incidents in the Life of
a Slave Girl
© The McGraw-Hill
Companies, 2007
that they are born unto him of his own household. Jealousy and hatred enter the
?owery home, and it is ravaged of its loveliness.
Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as
property, as marketable as the pigs on the plantation; and it is seldom that they do
not make them aware of this by passing them into the slavetrader’s hands as soon
as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight. I am glad to say there are
some honorable exceptions.
I have myself known two southern wives who exhorted their husbands to free
those slaves towards whom they stood in a “parental relation;” and their request
was granted. These husbands blushed before the superior nobleness of their wives’
natures. Though they had only counselled them to do that which it was their duty
to do, it commanded their respect, and rendered their conduct more exemplary.
Concealment was at an end, and con?dence took the place of distrust.
Though this bad institution deadens the moral sense, even in white women, to
a fearful extent, it is not altogether extinct. I have heard southern ladies say of Mr.
Such a one, “He not only thinks it no disgrace to be the father of those little …
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