Challenges to 19thc Black Stereotypes

“Challenges to 19thc Black Stereotypes–Literature” (use this for your “title” line)

*Before submitting your first RR, be sure you have reviewed the general info handout on RRs posted to the RR menu tab (particularly the sections on minimum length, formatting, submission requirements, general content, and avoiding plagiarism). Also note that you can find a sample blank rubric posted to RR menu tab which will show you the criteria I will use in evaluating your reflection.

Assigned Content*see the daily folder (short intro videos + BR and CP pages listed there)

*NOTE: the video author intros and brief BR intro to the Jacobs text are provided to give you needed context for understanding analyzing our CP excerpts, but the focus of your written RR should be firmly on relevant specifics from the CP pages themselves (not the intro material).

Prompt In your reflection of 2-4 pages (using required formatting), compare our CP “Excerpt #3” from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave found on CP 37-39 to the excerpts from Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl found on CP 43-46, addressing such points of comparison as:

· the specific nature of the abuse suffered by the narrator of each text

· the action taken (in the Douglass text) or plan made (in the Jacobs text) by each narrator to end or (in the Jacobs text) escape that specific abuse

· how the actions of each narrator affect their abusers

(in the case of the Jacobs text, this would be how the narrator imagines/predicts her planned action will affect him)

· what each narrator describes as the personal/psychological effects (upon themselves) of their action/planned action to end/escape the abuse

Conclude your thoughts by reflecting on what role gender difference seems to play in comparing the Douglass and Jacobs excerpts.

Be sure to use concise, well-chosen specific quotes from various parts of each of the two CP pages ranges for the assigned excerpts (i.e., CP 37-39 for Douglass and CP 43-46 for Jacobs) to support/illustrate what you see as the points of direct similarity and/or difference between the two texts. When you quote from the readings, “do it like this” (CP page number goes here). Remember that use of specific quotes is required for all RRs, and points will be deducted for quotes which are missing parenthetical page number citations keyed to our CP/BR pages.

Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)[footnoteRef:1] [1: “Jacobs, Harriet.” Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Oct. 1996, p. 517]

Born into slavery in North Carolina, Jacobs is the author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1862). As a teenager, Jacobs was repeatedly subjected to the unwanted sexual advances of her master. In 1829, she began a sexual relationship with a white neighbor for protection. She bore him a son within a year and a daughter in 1833. In an effort to save her children from becoming plantation slaves, Jacobs hid in a small attic space for nearly seven years. Aided by friends and relatives, she escaped to the North, where she became active in the abolitionist and feminist movements. Her freedom was purchased in 1852. Jacobs later worked as a representative of the Quakers in several Southern states. Her last years were spent with her daughter in Boston and Washington.


Intro to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1862)[footnoteRef:2] [2: Carson, Sharon. “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition, Dec. 2008, pp. 1–3. ]


First published: 1861 Type of work: Slave narrative Time of work: 1818-1861

Locale: North Carolina; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York, New York

Principal Personages [for our excerpts]:

Linda Brent , a slave and the narrator; “Linda Brent” is a pseudonym for the author

Dr. Flint, the pseudonym for Dr. James Norcom, Jacobs’s “master” and tormentor

Mr. Sands, a white man with whom Linda has her two children

Overview Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl  was long believed to be a fictional account of slavery. Through extensive research, however, scholars have documented its authenticity as an autobiography by Harriet Jacobs, and it is now considered one of the most important antebellum slave narratives. The issue of authenticity is, in fact, central to the whole tradition of African American slave narrative. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, like other narratives, was written as testimony on behalf of and documentation for the antislavery cause. As such, it represents a highly activist literature, one in which the express purpose was political. Jacobs participated in the abolitionist movement and was assisted in her literary efforts by other abolitionists.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl recounts the early childhood through middle adulthood of Linda, the pseudonym of author Harriet Jacobs. Born into slavery in North Carolina in approximately 1818, Linda loses both parents at an early age and forms a primary and essentially maternal bond with her grandmother, Aunt Martha, a free black. Linda’s life is controlled, however, by her master and mistress, Dr. and Mrs. Flint. In fact, Linda’s life story is structured as a response to Dr. Flint’s predatory sexual pursuit, which begins in her early adolescence and continues, in varied forms, until his death. In response to Flint’s constant harassment and Linda’s fear that he will eventually rape her, she chooses to bear two children with another white man in the community, Mr. Sands. She agonizes over this decision, believing that she has compromised her own morality. She also subsequently suffers her grandmother’s wrath and judgment in response to this decision, which threatens her emotional security. Linda’s hope is that Flint will see her relationship with Sands as a break from his influence and will abandon his pursuit. When this strategy fails, Linda decides to escape, hoping that in his exasperation over losing her Flint will sell her children to their father and thus allow them a measure of protection from the evils of slavery. Linda escapes but is unable to flee the area, and she is hidden in the homes of sympathetic neighbors until the risk in doing so becomes too great. She is then compelled to hide in a tiny space above her grandmother’s shed. Incredibly, Linda spends seven years cramped away in this room, watching the world and her children from a small peephole cut in the wood.

Eventually, arrangements are made for her escape to the North, first to Philadelphia and then to New York. Still enraged at Linda’s refusal of his advances and obsessively unwilling to relinquish his legal authority over her, Flint pursues her, both through letters and expeditions north. Before her own escape, Linda had arranged for her young daughter, Ellen, to be sent north to live with her father’s family. Once in New York, she also sends for her son, Benny. Protected by her sympathetic white employer, Mrs. Bruce, Linda is able to elude capture for several years, even after the notorious Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 makes the North perilous for escaped slaves. Flint dies, and his heirs continue to pursue their “property.” In the closing chapter of the autobiography, the second Mrs. Bruce buys Linda’s freedom from Flint’s family. Although ambivalent about having to receive a purchased freedom, Jacobs closes her story with Linda’s celebration of her liberation from slavery.

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