Bio: Harriet Jacobs was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina in 1813. Harriet's mother, Delilah, was the slave of John Horniblow, a tavern-keeper, and her father, Daniel Jacobs, a white slave owned by Dr. Andrew Knox. Delilah died when Harriet was six years old and was brought up by her grandmother. In 1825 Harriet was sold to Dr. James Norcom, who made numerous sexual advances towards her. When rebuffed, Norcom refused her permission to marry. Jacobs was seduced by Samuel Sawyer, a lawyer, and she had two children by him. Dr. Norcom continued to sexually harass Harriet and threatened to sell her children to a slave-dealer. In 1834 Harriet escaped to Philadelphia, and later moved on to New York where she worked as nurse-maid. She began writing her autobiography and some of it was published by Horace Greeley in his newspaper, New York Tribune. Her account of how she had been sexually abused shocked the American public and when her autobiography was completed, she found it difficult to get it published. They were particularly concerned by Harriet's descriptions of the behaviour of Norcom (name changed to Flint in the book). Child defended the inclusion of the material by arguing: "This peculiar phase of slavery has generally been kept veiled; but the public ought to be made acquainted with its monstrous features, and I willingly take the responsibility of presenting them with the veil withdrawn. I do this for the sake of my sisters in bondage, who are suffering wrongs so foul, that our ears are too delicate to listen to them."
Others people were upset by the way Jacobs highlighted the role of the Church in maintaining slavery. Eventually the manuscript was accepted by the publishers, Thayer and Eldridge, who recruited Lydia Maria Child to edit the book. Unfortunately, Thayer and Eldridge went bankrupt and it was not until 1861 that it was published in Boston as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. During the Civil War Jacobs worked as a nurse in Virginia. When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863 Jacobs wrote to Lydia Maria Child that: "I have lived to hear the Proclamation of Freedom for my suffering people. All my wrongs are forgiven. I am more than repaid for all I have endured." Harriet Jacobs, who lived the latter part of her life in Washington, died on 7th March, 1897, and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
An honest and fearless account of her exploitation as a slave. This is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, Black history, or the subject of sexual exploitation throughout history. Jacobs' story is unflinching and unusual in its candor.