In her first sentence of her very powerful story, Linda Brent writes: "I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away." What did she mean by this statement, and explain how this could possibly be true for anyone born into the world of slavery?
Slavery was a most despicable institution in the United States and as everyone seemed to accept it until it boiled down to a Civil War, the Deep South lorded it over millions of black Africans who suffered greatly and terribly due to their exposure to slavery. In this book, Linda Brent recounts the life of Harriet Jacobs, a young woman slave who has an extremely powerful narrative to share and she begins with the discovery that she was a slave at six years of age. This was due to the fact that young children were not inherently exposed to slave life at so early an age so they were not so affected by the institution. But that immediately dawned upon them when they were more than six years old as then they suffered all the horrors and injustices of a slave life with all its trials and tribulations. Jacobs’ childhood was a happy one as her household was inherently a kind one but as she was then sold and her master was unkind and quite a despot who worked his slaves to death. She then suffered unduly and was consistently abused and tortured and even made to work in the fields from dawn to dusk without any form of respite. This situation continued to prevail so her years of childhood appeared nothing less than a distant memory. (pg 1)
William was a bright young man who took to his life as a slave with rebellion and he also fumed at the inherent injustice caused by the institution itself. He held continual discussions with Harriet about their situation and urged her not to be so submissive and to be more assertive in her situation. He was angry at the fact that slaves did not have their own identity and were treated as little less than animals. He was also a bright and intelligent person who did not agree that every slave should do manual labour and wanted to learn and broaden his horizons. This was obviously not possible especially with his hard taskmaster and he received regular whippings and beatings for his pains.
Obviously the issue which irked William most was that he could not move about as he pleased and he could not learn anything and all his education had to be done in hiding. This created an impasse for him in the sense that he wanted to be a better person but the rigours and horrors of slavery kept him from being so. He could not take this terrible injustice and consequently became a silent and morose man
The contrast with Harriet was obviously great as Harriet was a submissive personality and would not really rebel against injustice. She was always worried for her brother who obviously faced considerable problems in his attitude and who had to face the lash a considerable number of times. Slaves did not have any form of independence, they were shackled to their chains and could not do otherwise but exist. (pg 20-30).
The book is an excellent narrative and is recommended for all those who wish to understand further the horrors of slavery.
Jacobs Harriet; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Retrieved from: http://books.google.com.mt/books?id=1RwEAAAAYAAJ&dq=Incidents+in+the+Life+of+a+Slave+Girl&pg=PR4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Incidents%20in%20the%20Life%20of%20a%20Slave%20Girl&f=false