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Harriet Jacobs (1813 or 1815 – March 7, 1897) was an African-American writer, whose autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, is now considered an "American classic". Born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, she was sexually harassed by her enslaver. When he threatened to sell her children if she did not submit to his desire, she hid in a tiny crawl space under the roof of her grandmother's house, so low she could not stand up in it. After staying there for seven years, she finally managed to escape to the free North, where she was reunited with her children Joseph and Louisa Matilda and her brother John S. Jacobs. She found work as a nanny and got into contact with abolitionist and feminist reformers. Even in New York, her freedom was in danger until her employer was able to pay off her legal owner. During and immediately after the Civil War, she went to the Union-occupied parts of the South together with her daughter, organizing help and founding two schools for fugitive and freed slaves. Biography Family and name Harriet Jacobs was born in 1813 in Edenton, North Carolina, to Delilah Horniblow, enslaved by the Horniblow family who owned a local tavern. Under the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, both Harriet and her brother John were enslaved at birth by the tavern keeper's family, as a mother's status was passed to her children. Still, according to the same principle, mother and children should have been free, because Molly Horniblow, Delilah's mother, had been freed by her white father, who also was her owner. But she had been kidnapped, and had no chance for legal protection because of her dark skin. Harriet and John's father was Elijah Knox, also enslaved, but enjoying some privileges due to his skill as an expert carpenter. He died in 1826.While Harriet's mother and grandmother were known by their owner's family name of Horniblow, Harriet used the opportunity of the baptism of her children to register Jacobs as their family name. She and her brother John also used that name after having escaped from slavery. The baptism was conducted without the knowledge of Harriet's master, Dr. Norcom. Harriet was convinced that her father should have been called Jacobs because his father was Henry Jacobs, a free white man. After Harriet's mother died, her father married a free African American. The only child from that marriage, Harriet's half brother, was called Elijah after his father and always used Knox as his family name, which was the name of his father's enslaver. Early life in slavery When Jacobs was six years old, her mother died. She then lived with her owner, a daughter of the deceased tavern keeper, who taught her not only to sew, but also to read and write. Only very few slaves were literate, although it was only in 1830 that North Carolina explicitly outlawed teaching slaves to read or write. Although Harriet's brother John succeeded in teaching himself to read, he still wasn't able to write when he escaped from slavery as a young adult.In 1825, the owner of Harriet and John Jacobs died. She willed Harriet to her three-year-old niece Mary Matilda Norcom. Mary Matilda's father, the physician Dr. James Norcom (son-in-law of the deceased tavern keeper), became her de facto master. Her brother John and most of her other property was inherited by the tavern keeper's widow. Dr. Norcom hired John, so that the Jacobs siblings lived together in his household. Following the death of the widow, her slaves were sold at the New Year's Day auction, 1828. Among them were Harriet's brother John, her grandmother Molly Horniblow and Molly's son Mark. Being sold at public auction was a traumatic experience for twelve-year old John. Friends of hers bought Molly Horniblow and Mark with money Molly had been working hard to save over the many years of her servitude at the tavern. Afterwards Molly Horniblow was set free, and her own son Mark became her slave. Because of legal restrictions on manumission, Mark had to remain his mother's slave until in 1847/48 she finally succeeded in getting him freed. John Jacobs was bought by Dr. Norcom, thus he and his sister stayed together. The same year, 1828, Molly Horniblow's youngest son, Joseph, tried to escape. He was caught, paraded in chains through Edenton, put into jail, and finally sold to New Orleans. The family later learned that he escaped again and reached New York. After that he was lost to the family. The Jacobs siblings who even as children were talking about escaping to freedom, saw him as a hero. Both of them would later name their sons for him. Coping with sexual harassment Norcom soon started harassing Jacobs sexually, causing the jealousy of his wife. When Jacobs fell in love with a free black man who wanted to buy her freedom and marry her, Norcom intervened and forbade her to continue with the relationship. Hoping for protection from Norcom's harassment, Jacobs started a relationship with Samuel Sawyer, a white lawyer and member of North Carolina's white elite, who would some years later be elected to the House of Representatives. Sawyer became the father of Jacobs's only children, Joseph (born 1829/30) and Louisa Matilda (born 1832/33). When she learned of Jacobs's pregnancy, Mrs. Norcom forbade her to return to her house, which enabled Jacobs to live with her grandmother. Still, Norcom continued his harassment during his numerous visits there; the distance as the crow flies between the two houses was only 600 feet (180 m). Seven years concealed In April 1835, Norcom finally moved Jacobs from her grandmother's to the plantation of his son, some 6 miles (9.7 km) away. He also threatened to expose her children to the hard life of the plantation slaves and to sell them, separately and without the mother, after some time. In June 1835, Harriet Jacobs decided to escape. A white woman, who was a slaveholder herself, hid her at great personal risk in her house. After a short time, Jacobs had to hide in a swamp near the town, and at last she found refuge in a "tiny crawlspace" under the roof of her grandmother's house. The "garret" was only 9 feet (2.7 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m) and 3 feet (0.91 m) at its highest point. The impossibility of bodily exercise caused health problems which she still felt while writing her autobiography many years later. She bored a series of small holes into the wall, thus creating an opening approximately an inch square that allowed fresh air and some light to enter and that allowed her to see out. The light was barely sufficient to sew and to read the Bible and newspapers. Norcom reacted by selling her children and her brother John to a slave trader demanding that they should be sold in a different state, thus expecting to separate them forever from their mother and sister. However, the trader was secretly in league with Sawyer, to whom he sold all three of them, thus frustrating Norcom's plan on revenge. In her autob.... Discover the Harriet Ann Jacobs popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Harriet Ann Jacobs books.

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