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Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is one of the most compelling accounts of slavery and one of the most unique of the one hundred or so slave narratives -- mostly written by men -- published before the Civil War.
The child and grandchild of slaves -- and therefore forbidden by law to read and write -- Harriet Jacobs was defiant in her efforts to gain freedom and to document her experience in bondage. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her master at the age of eleven. In 1842, she fled North and joined a circle of abolitionists that worked for Frederick Douglass's newspaper. In 1863, she and her daughter moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where they organized medical care for Civil War victims and established the Jacobs Free School.