Harriet A. Jacobs (inducted 2020)

Biographical Statement

Harriet A. Jacobs (1813-1897) was born a slave. Even though it was unlawful to teach slaves to read, Jacob’s mistress, the daughter of her owners, taught her to read and write. As she reached puberty, Jacob’s master started to make moves on her for sexual favors and subjected her to other abuses. So she ran away and hid at her grandmother’s house. She hid in a garret between the ceiling and roof that was about seven feet wide, nine feet in length and only three feet high at the highest point. She hid there for seven years! In 1861, Jacobs wrote a book entitled, “Incidents in the life of a slave girl written by herself.” In it she tells the story of her work while she was still a slave  to help an older black man, also a slave, learn to read so he could reach for a greater reward for himself at the end of his life. Later, after achieving her freedom, Jacobs taught reading and writing in schools for former slaves in what were called the Freedmen’s Schools. For further reading see: Jacobs, H. A. (1987). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by herself. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published in 1861).