Book Review: Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl

My summer reading series continues with this must-read book!

The autobiographical novel, Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, chronicles the first 27 years of Linda Brent’s life at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Her up close and personal look at the lives of female slaves in both the south and the northern “free” states, is an often overlooked aspect of the appalling nature of slavery. Her thoughtful commentary on the plight of slaves as they interacted with their owners, the poor non-slave-owning population, and other slaves, as well as the attitudes and actions of people living in the so-called “free” north, is penetratingly tragic. Linda Brent, a pseudonym adopted by Harriet Jacobs to protect those she left behind, draws you in with her eloquent language and colorful context before embarking on her own story of the trials and tribulations she encountered.

Brent describes her early years as being shielded from the knowledge of her own slavery, the horrible shock she receives after learning of her situation, and her inability to reconcile the despicable traffic in human flesh promoted by those who professed the Christian faith she held so dear. The peaks and valleys of her own experience are interwoven with her description of the individual tragedies of those around her. Her seven years in hiding reads like a terrible blueprint for a more modern holocaust concealment story. Although she describes her life as far less gruesome than others around her, the reader is confronted with not just the horror of slavery, but where the country was headed with the tragic introduction of the fugitive slave act which effectively rendered “free states” free in name only.

This compelling narrative is an essential component to a beginning understanding of how this shameful part of our past affects today’s racial climate in America.

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