Harriet Jacobs Fact 1: She was born on February 11, 1813 in Edenton, North Carolina in the United States. Her middle name was Ann.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 2: Harriet Jacobs and her brother, John, were born into slavery under the 'partus sequitum ventrem'; a legal doctrine stating that a child' slave status should follow that of his or her mother.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 3: Her parents were called Elijah Knox and Delilah Horniblow. They were owned by separate slave masters. Her father was a carpenter and his slave owner was called Andrew Knox, and her mother's master was a tavern owner called John Horniblow.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 4: She is thought to have had some European ancestry. It is believed that her father, Elijah Knox, was son to a white farmer called Henry Jacobs. However, this didn't alter her slave status.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 5: Her mother, Delilah Horniblow, died in 1819. Harriet was only six years old, she lived with Margaret Horniblow who had been Delilah's mistress. She educated Harriet, teaching her to read, write and sew.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 6: Margaret Horniblow wrote a will stating that her slaves were to be left to her mother. However, the will was not signed and a man called Dr. James Norcom became her new master when Margaret Horniblow died in 1825.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 7: Dr. James Norcom was a despicable man who sexually harassed Harriet Jacobs and treated her very badly. He would not allow her to marry any man, no matter what his status.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 8: She started seeing a free white lawyer called Samuel Sawyer. She had two children with him; they were called Joseph and Louisa. Despite the status of the children's father, they were still born into slavery because of Harriet was enslaved. Dr. James Norcom became their master also. He made threats to sell the children if Harriet didn't do as he asked.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 9: She could not bear the situation any longer. For a short time, she hid at the home of a slave owner in Edenton before taking refuge in a swamp called Cabarrus Pocosin.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 10: She then went into hiding for 7 years in her grandmother's attic. Her grandmother was called Molly. Harriet stayed in the crawl space about the ceiling of her grandmother's shack.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 11: She could see her children and hear their voices from her hiding place in the crawl space as Samuel Sawyer had purchased their two children from their master Dr. James Norcom who allowed the children to live with Harriet Jacobs' grandmother although he wouldn't agree to free them.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 12: She managed to successfully escape in 1842 with the help of the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee; an anti-slavery group who helped her reach New York in 1985.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 13: In New York, Harriet Jacobs was able to start a new life as a nursemaid. She worked in the home of a famous American poet and writer called Nathaniel Parker Willis. Her daughter, Louisa, had worked in New York as a waiting-maid from a young age so Harriet was able to reunite with her.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 14: She was also reunited with her brother, John Jacobs, who had also spent his life in slavery. In 1849, they opened an anti-slavery reading room together in Rochester, New York. It became a center for various abolitionists including a famous former slave and abolitionist called Frederick Douglass.
Harriet Jacobs Fact 15: She became part of the Anti-Slavery Society. A Quaker called Amy Post encouraged her to start writing about her life. She wrote a novel called 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl'. It was published as a book in 1861, however, it didn't receive its true recognition or credibility until it was rediscovered during the late 20th Century. It was one of the first stories to really publicize a female slave's battle for freedom.
Short Facts about Harriet Jacobs for Kids
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