BOOK REVIEW: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

When I first got my Kindle many years ago, I downloaded some classic books that had become free as they were more than 100 years out of copyright. I think I found a list of recommended books somewhere and picked off a collection that I wanted to read. I have been working through them in between various books that I have purchased. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was one of those still hanging around.

This is the true account of “Linda”, an African-American slave who lived in pre Civil War America. What is particularly interesting about Linda’s account is that she has the life of what some would have considered to be a “privileged slave”. As a “mulatto” (part white), Linda is a house slave who performs tasks like sewing, cleaning and acting as a handmaid. She is never beaten or made to undertake hard labour.

What she seeks to expose are the less blatantly obvious evils of slavery. Linda shares her experience of being constantly sexually harassed by her master and therefore inspiring the wrath of her mistress. At the same time explores how being a slave owner is corrupting to the slave owner themselves and to the offspring of slaves, including he own children. Her constant focus is on wanting to be free and being able to know the certainty of her own future and that of her children.

This is an intense and sobering read, which must have been very challenging for Linda to write at the time she did. She is an inspiring character and the tales she tells along with her dogged determination are very moving. Independent of the subject of Linda’s accounts, they are very well written, which makes this hard to put down.

A highly recommended read for anyone as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is very much about what it means to be human and the idea of freedom. These are stories that should never be forgotten.



  1. You make a great argument for the kindle but I just can’t leave my books!

    1. I do still love a “real” book and I usually have one on the go too but since most of my reading is now done on public transport something light, with no pages to turn is a lot easier to manage.

  2. 5/5 is a great score, and the book sounds well-worth reading.
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Abbi.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. The subject matter is very compelling but it’s also very well written, which is an excellent combination in my opinion. Apparently at the time it came out it was largely ignored as the civil war broke out, which is rather sad.

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