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Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Harriet Ann Jacobs – Setting and Keeping the Record Straight on Slavery (Contest)
Thursday, June 27th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…Amy Fendley!

Born in 1815, Harriet Ann Jacobs started life as a slave in Edenton, North Carolina but died an author, school founder, “contraband” advocate, and women’s rights champion in Washington D.C. Her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, chronicles the brutality she endured as an enslaved woman, but also demonstrates her resiliency, thanks to her family connections.

Harriet belonged to a tavern owner’s daughter who disregarded societal rules and taught six-year-old Harriet to read and write. Unfortunately, when the woman died, Harriet’s ownership transferred to John/James Norcom’s family, where Norcom sexually abused her. She began a relationship with a white lawyer named Samuel Sawyer who fathered her son Joseph and her daughter Louisa Matilda. Despite this relationship, Norcom kept sexually harassing Harriet. She ran away in 1835 and hid in her grandmother’s crawl space until she could escape to Philadelphia in 1842.

From there, she moved to New York and worked as a nanny for writer Nathaniel Parker Willis’ family. To thwart Norcom’s attempts to recapture her, the Willises sent Harriet to Massachusetts multiple times where her brother John lived and was an abolitionist.

After traveling to England with Willis and his child, Harriet lived in Rochester NY with abolitionist activist Amy Post, thanks to her brother’s connections with Frederick Douglass. She visited the Willis family back in New York City and agreed to work for them again. Since she was still a fugitive, they purchased her freedom in 1852.

Her brother and Post encouraged her to write down her life story, but Harriet refused.  However, a defense of slavery written by the wife of President John Tyler, finally broke down Harriet’s resistance. She responded to Julia Tyler’s lies that slaves were happy and well-treated with “Letter From A Fugitive Slave.” She sent the testimonial to the New York Daily Tribune, which published it on June 21, 1853. You can read the text here:

This letter served as the springboard for Harriet writing her autobiography.

She tried three times to find a publisher for her work here in the US and in England. After the third attempt failed, she was able to buy the plates and had the book printed herself under the pen name Linda Brent in 1861.

During the Civil War in occupied Alexandria, Harriet did relief work with contrabands—slaves who had escaped and found shelter with Union troops. She traveled north and to England several times to promote and raise financial support for this work. In January 1864, Harriet opened the Jacobs School with her daughter to teach the formerly enslaved to read and write. After Sherman’s marches, they took the Jacobs School to Georgia as well. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln and post-reconstruction violence by the Ku Klux Klan forced them to relocate North. They opened boarding houses, first in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then in Washington D.C.

She died on March 7, 1897, and is buried in Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery.

In 2004, Jean Fagan Yellin published a biography entitled Harriet Jacobs: A Life. Yellin also started the Harriet Jacobs Papers Project. which collected nearly one thousand documents written by, to and about Harriet, her brother John, and her daughter Louisa. Through her research which began in the 1980s, Yellin has used documents from various historical societies and archives to successfully defend Harriet’s work as an autobiography, not a work of fiction as some academics had claimed.

Today in the US people are still trying to whitewash the history of slavery, but slave narratives written by men and women like Harriet keep setting the record straight.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon Gift card share in the comments any thoughts this post may have raised for you.

One Breath Away
by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.


Tonight, all she cared about was the pleasure she hoped to enjoy again.

Spectral fingers of steam wafted from the water, inviting her own fingers to play between her thighs. The hope of completed self-pleasure shivered agreeably along every nerve.

She closed her eyes and massaged her nether lips, tentatively then confidently. The slow coil of arousal spread from her gut to her core. Her body swooned as desire ebbed and flowed in each vaginal contraction. First her chest tightened, then her belly and finally her groin. She gasped, caught in the grip of longing.

Now. I’ll do it now.

She thumbed her clitoris. Already throbbing with eagerness, the nubbin responded immediately.

Her back arched. Her throat tensed as bliss hardened into a clawing climax. She reached for the release beckoning to her from the edges of consciousness…then fell suddenly, frighteningly onto a piercing stake of pain straight out of hell.


11 comments to “Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Harriet Ann Jacobs – Setting and Keeping the Record Straight on Slavery (Contest)”

    · June 27th, 2024 at 9:47 am · Link

    The story makes me so sad. When she ran away I wondered what happened to her children. I am glad that she found people who would help her on her journey. I hate it is being whitewashed. Most of the past is being whitewashed and I am thankful that people are bringing up the past in a more truthful way. She was a pioneer of her time to buy the press and print her own copies.

  2. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · June 27th, 2024 at 10:54 am · Link

    Hi Amy,

    It’s fortunate there are so many primary sources that help keep the truth available. Norcom gave Harriet’s children and her brother to a slave trader and ordered they be sold in different states, but the trader was working with Sawyer who bought them and let them live with their grandmother. Her daughter was sent to live with Sawyer’s cousin in Brooklyn and eventually reunited with Harriet. I haven’t learned yet what happened to her son, but at least he was safe from Norcom’s revenge. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · June 27th, 2024 at 10:56 am · Link

    As always thanks Delilah for allowing me to share my love of African American women’s history.

  4. Mary Preston
    · June 27th, 2024 at 5:29 pm · Link

    An autobiography I would love to read.

  5. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · June 28th, 2024 at 1:41 am · Link

    It is amazing. Thanks for commenting, Mary.

  6. Debra Guyette
    · June 28th, 2024 at 6:16 am · Link

    These women had to be incredibly brave to do what they did. They are admirable and should be celebrated.

  7. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · June 28th, 2024 at 8:52 am · Link

    Amen, Debra! Thanks for commenting.

  8. BN
    · June 28th, 2024 at 10:32 pm · Link

    intriguing person

  9. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · June 29th, 2024 at 9:27 pm · Link

    These women continually amaze me too, bn. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Katherine Anderson
    · July 7th, 2024 at 10:33 am · Link

    For me it’s a reminder that there are incredible woman all through history we just have to search that litrle bit harder to find them

  11. Delilah
    · July 10th, 2024 at 7:26 am · Link

    Anna! Thanks so much for another wonderful post!

    The winner is…Amy Fendley!

Comments are closed.