Harriet Ann Jacobs was born into slavery at Edenton, North Carolina in 1813. Her mother, Delilah, was the daughter of a slave. Her father, Daniel, was a carpenter, owned by doctor Andre Knox. His father was white. Harriet's mother died when she was six. She was then taken in by her mistress, who taught her to read. When the mistress died, Harriet thought she would be given her freedom. However, the mistress' Will left her to her five-year-old niece. Because the niece was a minor, Harriet became the property of her father, Dr. James Norcom, who sexually harassed her. When Harriet learned that the doctor was building a cottage in the country where he planned to take her as his concubine, she was desperate.
In order to stall the doctor's advances, Harriet encouraged a relationship with a lawyer, Samuel Sawyer. Samuel had been attracted to Harriet for some time. The couple began an affair. Their son, Joseph, was born in 1829. A daughter, Louisa, was born in 1833. Dr. Norcom was furious when he learned of the relationship. He banished Harriet to a plantation where he ordered her to work as a field hand. This was excruciating work, but Harriet would not be intimidated. She continued to refuse the doctor's advances. In retaliation, Dr. Norcom refused to allow her to have her children. Harriet was again desperate. She made a plan to escape. With the help of the women in the community, both black and white, Harriet managed to hide from Dr. Norcom.
Then, Harriet found a great hiding place. Harriet's maternal grandmother, Molly Horniblow had been freed during the American Revolution. Unfortunately, on her way to Florida, she had been captured by slave traders and resold into slavery. She regained her freedom in 1828. Molly's house had a small crawlspace over a shed that had been added onto the residence. It was seven feet wide and nine feet long. The compartment had a bed on the floor for Harriet to lie on. The slope roof, which was only three feet high at one point, wouldn't allow her to roll over. The area had no window. Harriet lay in the dark hiding place while mice and rats crawled over her.
Samuel Sawyer had managed to buy the couple's children from Dr. Norcom without his knowledge. Joseph and Louisa came to live in their great-grandmother's home. Harriet could lie in the dark crawlspace and watch her children play through a hole she had drilled in the wall. Harriet couldn't take the chance of being found by Dr. Norcom. She lived in the crawlspace for six years and eleven months, coming out only at night for exercise.
Harriet escaped from her tortured existence in 1842. She boarded a ship to Philadelphia, then took the train to New York City. Here, she met Louisa, who had been sent to her mother by Samuel. Harriet lived in New York for a time and then moved to Rochester to reunite with her brother, who was also an escaped slave. Here, she became involved in the abolitionist movement and met Frederick Douglas. She began writing for his newspaper, the "North Star."
Harriet's troubles were far from over. She fled to Massachusetts and then back to New York to avoid being recaptured by Dr. Norcom. Finally, a friend of Harriet's was able to persuade the doctor to sell her. Harriet was free at last. Harriet's friends coaxed her to write a book telling of her life as a slave. Harriet wrote, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." She was the first to write of the abuse inflicted on women slaves. She used the pen name Linda Brent to publish her book, in order to protect her grandmother and her children.
Harriet was actively involved in the abolitionist movement before the Civil War. While the war raged, she used her position as celebrity to raise money for black refugees. After the war, she worked to better the life of freed slaves. Harriet died in 1897 at the age of eighty-four.
Lydia Marie Child was the Editor of "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." She was also a writer and activist. She and Harriet became very close. Lydia pledged her life to the political, intellectual and civil rights of the oppressed. By publishing Harriet's book, she left us an accounting of a life of slavery that we might otherwise never have known about. Be sure to follow the link above to read Harriet's book online.
If you are interested in the decisions a slave had to make while traveling the Underground Railroad, be sure to visit the National Geographic's site and take THE JOURNEY. I found this site a few years ago and it is a fabulous way to learn more about the life of a slave and the Underground Railroad. I hope you've enjoyed learning about Harriet Jacobs and her life. Please visit both the sites I have linked to in order to learn more about Black History.
Not much other news from here today. I talked to Michelle on the phone and she is getting around well. She went up and down stairs today and she and Melissa are having fun together. The boys are having a ball with Griffyn. I know when Griffyn leaves to go home on Friday that he will miss the boys and they will really miss him. They are having lots of fun together and it's good for the boys to learn about babies.
If at all possible, be kind to someone today. Even a smile can make a big difference in a person's life. ~Blessings, Mary~