Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl Essay
Read Chapters 11 & 12 and the information included in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; scroll down the document at this website and read through Chapters V, VI, and VII of the account by ex-slave Harriet Jacobs. Once all reading is complete, respond to the following item(s):
What does this account reveal about the nature of slavery and how slavery affected southern society?
How did Jacobs resist the sexual predation of her master?
Describe the relationship between Jacobs and her mistress.
Unfortunately, Harriet Jacobs endured much pain at the hands of her master and mistress. Slavery was viewed as a normal constitution and even a right. The white population of the south saw the black population as a nuisance, a people that needed to be controlled by any means necessary. Slaves were seen as unintelligent, immoral people who could not be allowed to make decisions or live unregulated. Slaves were viewed as unequal and undeserving of the natural rights that the American colonist fought so hard for. Slaves were often abused mentally and physically and were ruled by force, coercion, and fear. White slave masters viewed slavery as an institution that they had a right to practice. Slavery made a lot of money for slave owners and decreased the amount of work that they had to participate in, so slavery was something that they were not going to give up.
Harriet Jacobs was able to resist her master’s predatory advances by using many tactics including her master’s fear of her outspoken grandmother, the potential for his reputation to be besmirched, and the wrath of her jealous mistress. Unfortunately, she was often subject to his advances and anger, and aggression as a result of denying him. She had to work diligently to avoid unsupervised contact with her master so that she would not become a victim of his sexual predation.
Harriet Jacobs was a victim of her mistress’s temper and disdain. Harriet was seen as a temptress and provocateur of her master’s sexual attention. Although Harriet did not want nor accede to her master’s affections, her mistress saw her as a perpetrator rather than a victim and therefore was met with distrust and contempt from her mistress. Harriet’s mistress likely saw her as a hurdle in gaining her husband’s true marital commitment.