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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harriet Jacobs


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The following statement is from Amy Post, a member of the Society of Friends in the State of New York, well known and highly respected by friends of the poor and the oppressed. As has been already stated, in the preceding pages, the author of this volume spent some time under her hospitable roof.


    The author of this book is my highly-esteemed friend. If its
    readers knew her as I know her, they could not fail to be deeply
    interested in her story. She was a beloved inmate of our family
    nearly the whole of the year 1849. She was introduced to us by
    her affectionate and conscientious brother, who had previously
    related to us some of the almost incredible events in his
    sister's life. I immediately became much interested in Linda; for
    her appearance was prepossessing, and her deportment indicated
    remarkable delicacy of feeling and purity of thought.

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    As we became acquainted, she related to me, from time to time
    some of the incidents in her bitter experiences as a slave-woman.
    Though impelled by a natural craving for human sympathy, she
    passed through a baptism of suffering, even in recounting her
    trials to me, in private confidential conversations. The burden
    of these memories lay heavily upon her spirit--naturally virtuous
    and refined. I repeatedly urged her to consent to the publication
    of her narrative; for I felt that it would arouse people to a
    more earnest work for the disinthralment of millions still
    remaining in that soul-crushing condition, which was so
    unendurable to her. But her sensitive spirit shrank from
    publicity. She said, "You know a woman can whisper her cruel
    wrongs in the ear of a dear friend much easier than she can
    record them for the world to read." Even in talking with me, she
    wept so much, and seemed to suffer such mental agony, that I felt
    her story was too sacred to be drawn from her by inquisitive
    questions, and I left her free to tell as much, or as little, as
    she chose. Still, I urged upon her the duty of publishing her
    experience, for the sake of the good it might do; and, at last,
    she undertook the task.

    Having been a slave so large a portion of her life, she is
    unlearned; she is obliged to earn her living by her own labor,
    and she has worked untiringly to procure education for her
    children; several times she has been obliged to leave her
    employments, in order to fly from the man-hunters and
    woman-hunters of our land; but she pressed through all these
    obstacles and overcame them. After the labors of the day were
    over, she traced secretly and wearily, by the midnight lamp, a
    truthful record of her eventful life.

    This Empire State is a shabby place of refuge for the oppressed;
    but here, through anxiety, turmoil, and despair, the freedom of
    Linda and her children was finally secured, by the exertions of a
    generous friend. She was grateful for the boon; but the idea of
    having been bought was always galling to a spirit that could
    never acknowledge itself to be a chattel. She wrote to us thus,
    soon after the event: "I thank you for your kind expressions in
    regard to my freedom; but the freedom I had before the money was
    paid was dearer to me. God gave me that freedom; but man put
    God's image in the scales with the paltry sum of three hundred
    dollars. I served for my liberty as faithfully as Jacob served
    for Rachel. At the end, he had large possessions; but I was
    robbed of my victory; I was obliged to resign my crown, to rid
    myself of a tyrant."

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Harriet Jacobs

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