Nothing good has ever came from the institution of slavery. Slavery was a monster that destroyed everything in its pathway. It ripped families apart, forcing people to work tirelessly all day, then if you disobeyed your masters you were lynched for your actions. Treated like cattle the life of a slave was dispensable and most White people knew this which why most of them took advantage of the slaves when given the chance. As terrible and hopeless slavery was some people fought hard to kill the beast that is Slavery.
Harriet Jacobs was one of those people who made sacrifices for her freedom. In her memoir called “Incidents in the life of a slave girl” Harriet chronicled her life as a child born into slavery to when she was an adult that escaped to freedom. For Harriet to achieve her freedom she had to pay a price. This price was paid through the many sacrifices she made. From enduring the harsh abuse of her master’s and not being able to raise her children as her own. Slaves were not classified as human beings which ultimately means that slaves were not capable of defending themselves from the abuse of their masters. In the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, she describes the abuse that she endured at her master, Dr. Flint, plantation. The year that Jacobs turned fifteen was the year that Dr. Flint started harassing her with his unwanted advances. Dr. Flint would often corner and whisper harsh words to her, slipping notes in her hands, and calling her into his private study to tell her all of the things he wished to do to her. The other slaves in the house pitied her for being the new object of Dr. Flint’s desires. It was not uncommon in the south for the white male master’s to sexually harass and rape the slave women on their plantation.
A slave woman has no way to protect herself in these instances and has to endure so much sexual trauma. There is also some irony that is displayed in these instances since whites, especially white males, would consider Black women to be dirty animals. However, they still desired them sexually and even forcing them to have their children. Sadly, this was the experience that most slave women had to endure. “…many Americans assumed that black males sexually abused white females and that white males were solely responsible for the sexual violation of black females. African American males faced execution, legally and illegally, for abusing white women but it also assumed that males regardless of color, went unpunished for the violation of black females.” (King. 1) It was considered a legal act for Black women to be raped because it was believed that Black women were “sexually aggressive and wanted advances. These assumptions forced Jacobs to be on edge constantly, watching out for Dr. Flint's next move. It also came to an outrageous point that he even built a cottage away from the plantation so when he was ready, he could rape and she would be stranded. If was not enough that she had to endure the advances of her master, she also is dealing with the petty jealousy of his wife. If there were a question as to why a wife of a rich white man would be jealous of a slave girl there would be no reasonable answer.
As described in the novel, Mrs. Flint was incredibly jealous and vindictive. Jacobs was always confused about why Mrs. Flint was all too aware of the nature of her husband’s character and still chose to take her anger out on the slave women he targeted. Because he was the father of eleven slave children. It was also very common for white masters to have several children from slaves. So, her hatred was surely fueled by her insecurities. Mrs. Flint hated Jacobs and was even more frustrated when Dr. Flint forbade anyone from punishing her. Mrs. Flint made Jacobs sleep in her room so Dr. Flint couldn’t sneak into her bed at night. She sat by Jacobs as she slept to make sure that nothing is going on between them. Jacobs states “The old man raved to have me removed from his immediate power; but his wife vowed, by all that was good and great, she would kill me if I came back; and he did not doubt her word.” (Jacobs 117) As a result of the fear of becoming Dr. Flint's concubine to the abuse, she experienced from his wife influenced Jacobs to plan her escape. Although the events that are taking place in the story are true, the story can be used as an empathetic appeal to the audience. The target audience was white people, more specifically white women. Jacobs knew that her story would appeal to white women which in turn will have their support in the abolition of slavery.
Throughout the novel, there is a constant message of how Jacobs wanted to make a decent home for her children. As a slave, her children were not her own and were liable to be taken away from her at any moment. Most Black mothers had to live through this reality that the very children she birthed belonged to someone else other than her. In Jacobs's case, she was able to somewhat be around her children, but it was not in the way she would have intended. This was due to her plan to escape the wrenched hands of Dr. Flint. In this chapter Jacobs escape. At this point, she was instructed by Dr. Flint to go to her room and wait for him. He took a long time to get to her and she grew more fearful the longer she waited. She decided to sneak out a window, run to a friend’s house to get some things, and leave. She had to make the hard decision of not taking her children with her. By this time, she has two children and just like any mother she wanted to take them with her, but she could not. Although this separation between her children was a choice that she had to make many Black mothers did not have this privilege. Many times, they were taken for them by force. Jacob’s experiences of regretfully abandoning her children for freedom tugged at the heartstrings of northern White women. Since most of them were mothers and could not bear the notion of being separated from their children.
As the story continues, Jacobs had gone back to her grandmother’s house where she hid in a shed that her uncle had built which attached to the house. She hid there for seven years while her Aunt Nancy would come and relay her news she heard from the main house. All through this time she would listen and see life pass her by while she hid. “… I the voices of my children. There was a joy and there was sadness in the sound. It made my tears flow. How I longed to speak to them! I was eager to look on their faces; but there was no hole, no crack, through which I could peep. This continued darkness was oppressive.” (Jacobs.158). Imagine sitting in a cramped shed while life was going outside, and you could not enjoy it. It is extremely heartbreaking when you realize that Jacob’s mad a necessary sacrifice to gain her freedom even if that meant not being with her children. Jacob’s story is unlike another slave narrative because she discusses the life of a slave through the perspective of women and a mother.
Most slave narratives were usually told by black men which is why Jacobs's story is so unique. Having to experience sexual harassment and abuse as a young girl and having to miss out on important parts of life like raising children. The price Harriet Jacobs paid to receive freedom was through the sacrifices she made Through enduring abuse and sexual violence and abandoning her children. Most of what she went through is what appealed to the audience of the novel which changed the perspective of the lives of slaves. Thus, helping make the necessary change to abolish slavery.