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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Essay Questions

Use these essay questions as writing and critical thinking exercises for all levels of writers, and to build their literary analysis skills by requiring textual references throughout the essay.

Differentiation Suggestion: For English learners or struggling writers, strategies that work well include graphic organizers, sentence frames or starters, group work, or oral responses.

Scaffolded Essay Questions

Student Prompt: Write a short (1-3 paragraph) response using one of the below bulleted outlines. Cite details from the text over the course of your response that serve as examples and support.

1. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl contains many examples of enslaved people who defied slavery and resisted their oppression.  

  • What examples of defiance toward slavery appear in the memoir? (topic sentence)
  • Describe three instances in which enslaved people showed defiance toward enslavers.
  • In your concluding sentences, describe how these instances were key to building a tradition of resistance.

2. It is a common practice in enslaved people’s narratives to withhold vital information from the reader, change the names of real people, or otherwise make alterations to their account.  

  • What might have been the purpose of withholding the information that she chose to keep from readers? (topic sentence)
  • What type of information did Jacobs choose to omit or change?
  • What type of information did Jacobs choose to leave in?
  • In your concluding sentences, explain whether Harriet’s decision to withhold this information diminishes the validity of her testimonial.