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Jean Fagan Yellin, The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (2008)


Jean Fagan Yellin, The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (2008)


Jean Fagan Yellin has researched for decades to prove that the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs is in fact autobiographical. Many scholars maintain that Jacobs's testimony, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was actually a fictional writing. Yellin devoted countless hours over a large portion of her life assembling this brilliantly edited compilation of firsthand papers written by or about Harriet Jacobs, her brother, and her daughter. Yellin has put together hundreds of writings in this two volume, and her work cements the truth to the testimony of the antebellum slave girl. This book supplements Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl very well and provides extremely important historical background and context to the life of Harriet Jacobs.


Yellin, Jean Fagan


Yellin, Jean Fagan. The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press: 2008.





Original Format



She was a slave in the South and a fugitive in the South and in the North. She was an abolitionist, the author of a published slave narrative. She was a relief worker during the Civil War, and after Reconstruction, she was an entrepreneur. Although millions of American women were held in bondage over the two hundred and fifty years that slavery was legal in the United States, Harriet Jacobs is the only woman known to leave papers testifying to her life in slavery. Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, two other obvious nineteenth-century candidates for editions of papers, cannot become the subjects of such an edition because, like almost all of the enslaved, they were kept illiterate - their narratives are "as-told-to" volumes. Jacobs, both a major and representative figure of black history in nineteenth-century America, is the only woman known who can enjoy this scholarly treatment. Harriet Jacobs's life exemplifies the history of her people throughout the nineteenth century. The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers, composed of writings by Jacobs, her brother John S. Jacobs, and her daughter Louisa Matilda Jacos, writings to them, and private and public writings about them, presents a unique angle of vision. Fueled by the conflict between the impulse of liberty inspiring American life and the institution of chattel slavery blighting that life, the papers collected here offer new perspectives on nineteenth-century struggles against slavery, racism, and sexism. The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers is designed as a lasting contribution to the ongoing study of the ways in which these national struggles and the social conditions that gave rise to them have shaped our culture and continue to shape our lives.


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Yellin, Jean Fagan, Jean Fagan Yellin, The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (2008), Civil War Era NC, accessed July 17, 2024,