104 pages 3 hours read

Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1861

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Discussion/Analysis Prompt

Harriet Jacobs provides a rare account of an American enslaved woman. What dangers did enslaved women like Jacobs experience? How is Jacobs’s parentage evidence of the exploitation of enslaved women? How do female enslavers, particularly Mrs. Flint, uphold the detrimental actions of male enslavers? How does Jacobs’s writing powerfully communicate this experience?

Teaching Suggestion: Harriet Jacobs provides the reader with a first-hand account of life as an enslaved female. Consider discussing the unique perspectives of enslaved persons from a female viewpoint. It may be beneficial for students to analyze the prompt by comparing Harriet’s treatment in Dr. Flint’s house with her experience on Mr. Flint’s plantation. Also, students might consider how enslaved men are treated. Do they endure the same hardships, or do they face unique hardships of their own?

Differentiation: Students or student populations who have trauma may struggle with the content of this text. For this prompt, you might adapt the assignment to focus on Harriet Jacobs’s character strengths. Students might identify strengths in Harriet as she endures mistreatment from her enslavers, and then cite additional passages in the narrative in which she demonstrates that strength.