Jacobs, Harriet Ann

Life Span
to
Full name
Harriet Jacobs
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Estimated
Death Date Certainty
Exact
Gender
Female
Race
Black
Sectional choice
North
Origins
Slave State
Family
Elijah (father), Delilah (mother)
Occupation
Writer or Artist
Other
Other Occupation
Nursemaid
Relation to Slavery
Slave or Former Slave
Other Affiliations
Abolitionists (Anti-Slavery Society)

Harriet Jacobs (American National Biography)

Scholarship
As a fugitive slave in the South, Jacobs hid for almost seven years in a tiny space under the roof of her grandmother's home. In June 1842 she escaped to Philadelphia. She was eventually reunited with her children in the North. In 1849 she joined an abolitionist circle in Rochester, New York. Jacobs wrote that after passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, she was sought by her North Carolina mistress but rejected an offer to buy her freedom: "The more my mind had become enlightened, the more difficult it was for me to consider myself an article of property; and to pay money to those who had so grievously oppressed me seemed like taking from my sufferings the glory of triumph" (Incidents, p. 199).

Despite her protest, in 1853 Jacobs was purchased from Mary Matilda Norcom Messmore by her New York employer, Cornelia Grinnell Willis, and she and her children were free from the threat of reenslavement. Persuaded to tell her story by Amy Post, a Rochester abolitionist and feminist friend, and after a futile attempt to enlist bestselling author Harriet Beecher Stowe as her amanuensis, Jacobs spent years writing her book. When she finished, the black writer and activist William C. Nell introduced her to the white antislavery writer and activist Lydia Maria Child, who edited the manuscript and helped obtain financial backing from Boston abolitionists.
Jean Fagan Yellin, "Jacobs, Harriet," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-00839.html.
How to Cite This Page: "Jacobs, Harriet Ann," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/5971.