A Slave Girl’s Brave Tale

Slavery, to almost everyone is seen as something horrific and inhumane. The subject of how brutal slavery was has been depicted over and over again. Jacobs approach was not to gain sympathy for her plight as an abused slave girl. Instead, she was trying to get readers to feel compassion for the women who are still being oppressed. Even though Jacobs claims to not want sympathy and even aplogizes for some of the graphic information, she did an excellent job in conveying her story to readers and showing a strong fight for womanhood. “Reader it is not to awaken sympathy for myself that I am telling you truthfully what I suffered. I do it to kindle a flame of compassion in your hearts for my sisters who are still in bondage.” (Jacobs p. 263)

“Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” is a true account of the brutal conditions held for slave women. Although men slave are mentioned, the essay is geared more towards women and the unfair conditions that they had to face day after day. During her time, writing about this was unfathomable. In fact, women having any rights at all was almost unheard of. This is shown in the way the white women succumb to their husbands in ways that seems incomprehensible. Women’s Movement was a far ways away, yet Jacobs was brave enough to put this into writing in days when this could have cost her her own life.

Jacob’s most ferocious ordeal was dealing with sexual harassment from Dr. Flint. Knowing that she would never be allowed to escape the torment or be allowed to marry a free black man, Jacobs devises a plan that would ensure her survival and at the same time outwit her masters. By having an affair with another white man, Jacobs frees herself from Dr. Flint’s grasp. In doing so, she also takes the burden on of being an unwed mother. In her eyes, she is ashamed because her family will know of what she did. However, she also made a big step towards womens movements and showed that she was a true survivalist.Though it was looked down upon to bear a child without being married, the laws for slaves should not apply as they do to free or white women. A slave girls life is based on survival and survival alone. So even though she breaks a signifigant rule, she still takes control of her destiny.

One of the most interesting people in this essay is Jacob’s grandmother, Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha is a repected woman and cares deeply for Jacobs. Readers learn that Aunt Martha is really the only person that Jacobs has to depend on. However, there are still some things that even Aunt Martha cannot understand. Aunt Martha is a free woman, and even though she lives like most women are supposed to live during those days, she doesn’t have to succumb to being submissive. Her advice to Jacob’s is to submit to her masters and do exactly as she is told. However, since Aunt Martha is on the outside, she has no idea what it is like not to be able to have a traditional family. This is something that Jacobs has been denied. So in essence, Jacobs really has no one but herself and her survival instincts.

After her escape from the abusive Dr. Flint, she is helped out by a white woman who hides slaves. This is another case of a woman standing up for her own kind. Instead of standing up for her own color, the white woman stands up for her own gender. This to me, shows advancement for women even back in those days. The supposed role of woman to be domestic and to take care of her family and loved ones. This shows that maybe those roles are not as signifigant as they are made to be. Jacobs seems to despise the roles that women have, but yet she takes on her own role and does her part for womanhood in her own way. She understands that she will never be considered a true woman since she is having a child out of wedlock, but with that she gave herself a little power and choice over her life. She finally had some authority of her own. Later, when she writes letters to Dr. Flint, she once again exercizes that she has gained a sense of control in some aspects of her life.

Throughout history, the role of women has changed signifigantly. In Jacob’s day, women were seen more as tokens than humans, whether they were black or white. Jacobs certainly did her part to help in the rights for women by refusing to be owned, and refusing to submit her sould and life to a cruel and undeserving man. Jacobs takes control of her future, and shows that women can be just as strong. With her essay, Jacobs is sending a message to women all the world. Slavery in one sense may have ended a long time ago. There is however, different kinds of slavery that are still around. From minimum wage labor to child abuse, there are many things in this present world that seems to fit along the lines of slavery. Jacobs essay and writing is concerned about the slavery of women.

Even though it it not labeled as slavery, women are still not looked at as equals to men to many people. Jacob brings light to this in her essay, and I truly think she did a remarkable job for the women in the world today and all the women that are here in the future. Works Cited Bartholomae, David, and Anthony Petrosky. “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”. Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers, 7th Edition New York: Bedford, 2005. African American Women Writers of the 19th Century. 2001. http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/digs/wwm97255

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