After nearly seven years hiding in a tiny garret above her grandmother’s home, Harriet Ann Jacobs took a step other slaves dared to dream in 1842; she secretly boarded a boat in Edenton, N.C., bound for Philadelphia, New York and, eventually, freedom. The young slave woman’s flight, and the events leading up to it, are documented in heart-wrenching detail in her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, self-published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent.
A significant personal history by an African American woman, Harriet Jacobs’ story is as remarkable as the writer who tells it. During a time when it was unusual for slaves to read and write, self-publishing a first-hand account of slavery’s atrocities was extraordinary. That it was written by a woman, unprecedented.
This Web site is a project of the Chowan County Tourism Development Authority, with funding from the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. Its purpose is to shed light on who Harriet was, outline the social and political climate of the time and introduce present-day sites that help to interpret her memorable story. These pages are dedicated to Harriet, so that others may put a face and a voice to a woman who was not willing to be a slave.
"I have My dear friend Striven faithfully to give a true and just account of my own life in Slavery God knows I have tried to do it in a Christian spirit…I ask nothing I have placed myself before you to be judged as a woman whether I deserve your pity or your contempt I have another object in view it is to come to you just as I am a poor Slave Mother not to tell you what I have heard but what I have seen and what I have suffered and if there is any sympathy to give let it be given to the thousands of Slave Mothers that are still in bondage…let it plead for their helpless Children…"
Letter from Harriet Jacobs to Amy Post, June 21,1857