Freedom Incidents Essay

Submitted By Abigail-Kaufmann
Words: 1266
Pages: 6

Abigail Kaufmann
Dr. Wachter
English 209-320
11 November 2014
“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” (Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works - Volume XII). Harriet Jacobs’ autobiography tells her painful story growing up as a black female in the south and shows one woman’s personal account of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and enslavement. Not only does this story illustrate an African American’s struggle to gain personal freedom, but it also demonstrates the lack of freedom present between the white communities as well. After six years of being happy and naïve, Harriet Jacobs, known in her book as Linda Brent, is thrown into the harsh game of slavery accompanied by years of abuse. In her book, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, Harriet Jacobs expresses a battle for freedom in ever aspect of her life as well as others. Through her fight to overcome slavery, be a mother, and understand religion all while being an African American female in the south, a desire to be free exists in even the smallest of challenges. Harriet Jacobs’, portrayed as Linda Brent in her story, is a young African American slave living in the south during the mid 1800’s. The biggest and most prevalent freedom struggle in the story is for individual freedom. Not only does Jacobs’ argue that slavery is detrimental to the slaves themselves but she also argues that slavery negatively affects everyone involved. She writes, “I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched” (Jacobs 81). True freedom cannot be experienced behind the evil mask of slavery; it changes people and molds society’s hatred into young minds. Slavery can also ruin a family, either by separation or by corruption. More so than race, family determines reputation. While Linda portrays a strong emotional attachment to her family, she also shows a physical attachment as well. This attachment serves as the driving force for Linda to keep going and continue to fight for her freedom. Because of Linda’s loyalty to her family, she ends up hiding out in an attic for seven years. Linda gave up what little freedom she had to keep her family. The idea of family kept Linda fighting and ultimately pushed her to take the risks that she did. Linda expresses her undying love for her family when she says, “My friends feared that I should become a cripple for life; and I was so weary of my long imprisonment that, had it not been for the hope of serving my children, I should have been thankful to die; but, for their sakes I was willing to bear on” (Jacobs 59). Linda found a sense of freedom in being a mother. It separated and distracted her from the cruel world that came along with being a slave. Knowing that the slaves had strong religious backgrounds, the slaveholders used religion as a tactic to keep slaves from disobeying. Slaveholders would hire African American preachers to deliver scripture and messages about being obedient. Jacobs wrote specifically to the Christian women of the north to explain why slavery brought out the worst in African Americans. Throughout her story, Jacobs struggles with her own personal religious freedom. Christianity was important Jacobs but slaves were not allowed to go to church. Jacobs suggested that slave masters manipulated religion to fit their own needs and wants. Preacher’s sermons portrayed the fears that white slave holders had about their slaves. One sermon reads, “Although your masters may not find you out, God sees you; and he will punish you. You must forsake your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your old master and your young master--your old mistress and your young mistress. If you disobey your earthly master, you offend your heavenly Master. You must obey God's commandments. When you go from