Harriet Ann Jacobs was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina in 1813. After both her mother, Delilah, and father, Elijah, died during Jacobs's youth, she and her younger brother, John, were raised by their maternal grandmother, Molly Horniblow. Jacobs learned to read, write, and sew under her first mistress, Margaret Horniblow, and hoped to be freed by her. However, when Jacobs was eleven years old, her mistress died and willed her to Dr. James Norcom, a binding decision that initiated a lifetime of suffering and hardship for Jacobs. Dr. Norcom, represented later as Dr. Flint in Jacobs's narrative, sexually harassed and physically abused the teenaged Jacobs as long as she was a servant in his household. Jacobs warded off his advances by entering into an affair with a prominent white lawyer named Samuel Treadwell Sawyer and bearing him two children: Joseph (b. 1829) and Louisa Matilda (c. 1833-1913), who legally belonged to Norcom. Fearing Norcom's persistent sexual threats and hoping that he might relinquish his hold on her children, Jacobs hid herself in the storeroom crawlspace at her grandmother's house from 1835 until 1842. During those seven years Jacobs could do little more than sit up in the cramped space. She read, sewed, and watched over her children from a chink in the roof, waiting for an opportunity to escape to the North. Jacobs was finally able to make her way to New York City by boat in 1842 and was eventually reunited with her children there. Even in New York, however, Jacobs was at the mercy of the Fugitive Slave Law, which meant that wherever Jacobs lived in the United States, she could be reclaimed by the Norcoms and returned to slavery at any time. Around 1852, her employer, Cornelia Grinnell Willis, purchased her freedom from the Norcoms.
Writing an unprecedented mixture of confession, self-justification, and societal expose, Harriet Jacobs turned her autobiography into a unique analysis of the myths and the realities that defined the situation of the African American woman and her relationship to nineteenth-century standards of womanhood. As a result, occupies a crucial place in the history of American women's literature in general and African American women's literature in particular. Published in the North, proved that until slavery was overthrown, only expatriate southern women writers, such as Jacobs and her contemporary, Angelina Grimke Weld, who left South Carolina to speak out against slavery in the South, could write freely about social problems in the South.
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In 1849, following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Harriet Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. She feared that her family would be further severed and was concerned for her own fate as a sickly slave of low economic value. Two of her brothers, Ben and Harry, accompanied her on September 17, 1849. However after a notice was published in the Cambridge Democrat offering a $300 reward for the return of Araminta, Harry and Ben, Tubman’s brothers had second thoughts and returned to the plantation. Harriet had no plans to remain in bondage. Seeing her brothers safely home, she soon set off alone for Pennsylvania.
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After the Civil War ended, Tubman dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly. In honor of her life and by popular demand, in 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman will replace on the center of a new $20 bill.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, a captivity narrative.
In June 2015, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew was criticized for saying that it was likely a woman would appear on the $10 bill, which features a portrait of , the influential founding father who found renewed popularity because of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. The ultimate decision to have Tubman replace Jackson, a slaveholder who played a role in the removal of Native Americans from their land, was widely praised.
I turned from him with disgust and hatred
Born into slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman (c. 1820 to March 10, 1913) escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become the most famous "conductor" on the . Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of family members and other slaves from the plantation system to freedom on this elaborate secret network of safe houses. A leading abolitionist before the , Tubman also helped the Union Army during the war, working as a spy among other roles.
Her tale was brutal, sexual. No one believed a slave …
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(title page) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.