2) By whom was the introduction to the autobiography written? What do you know about the author of the introduction and her relationship with the author? What is the significance of this introduction?
3) Has the autobiography undergone extensive editing that you can recognize? How did this editing change the story?
4) Pay attention to the style of Brent's autobiography. Does her tone or style change when discussing certain topics?
5) Linda Brent wrote, "Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women." Describe the forces that Brent endured as a slave. To what extent were her experiences shaped by her race (keeping in mind her background as a person of mixed race)? To what extent were her experiences shaped by her gender? In what ways did Brent's experiences differ from free white women in both the North and South, free Black African-American women, and African-American men, both free and enslaved?
6) Regarding Brent's identification as a "mulatto," or person of mixed African and European heritage, consider attitudes about both race as a category and women of color as people. To what extent was her experience affected by her being light-skinned and the descendant of a white planter?
7) What was the relationship between her first mistress, with whom she lived until the age of twelve, and Linda Brent? To what did Brent attribute the nature of this relationship?
8) What was the nature of the relationship between Mr. Flint, whom Brent calls "a hoary-headed miscreant," and Linda Brent? Does Brent argue that this relationship was typical or uncommon between slave women and their masters?
9) Discuss the nature of the relationship between Mrs. Flint, Brent's master's wife, and Linda Brent. Why did Brent feel sorry for Mrs. Flint? What criticism did she have of Mrs. Flint's behavior towards herself? For what purpose could Linda Brent use her pity for Mrs. Flint?
10) In what way does Brent present the African-American family as disrupted by the institution of slavery? What did slave families do to mediate the intrusion of masters' and mistresses' demands on them? What accomodations did slave families make for their own survival? When considering the activities of families, consider also the varying differences and similarities in the behaviors and perspectives of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and siblings.
11) Linda Brent describes herself as undergoing a sort of "awakening" to her rights as a person and as a woman after she reached the North and after a friend bought her to end her pursuit as a fugitive slave. She writes, "The more my mind had become enlightened, the more difficult it was for me to consider myself an article of property; and to pay money to those who had so grievously oppressed me seemed like taking from my suffering the glory of triumph." To what do you attribute the "awakening" to a sense that she was not property, either by virtue of race or gender?
12) In what ways does Linda Brent's story illustrate the experiences of African-American women in slavery in the nineteenth century? Is this a believable story? Why or why not? How do the details comport with other information you have about women's experiences in this period and situation?
13) How typical does her experience seem? If it is atypical, does that decrease its importance? How does typicality or atypicality affect how we critically evaluate a work such as Brent's?
14) How did her gender shape Linda Brent's experiences in both slavery and freedom?
Click here to see the University of Virginia American Studies Department's Harriet Brent Jacobs Project.
Click here to see another page that provides links to WWW resources about women and slavery.
Read the etexts for two slave narratives, the anonymous "The Sorrows of Yamba or The Negro Woman's Lamentation," and Briton Hammon's "A narrative of the uncommon sufferings, and surprizing deliverance of Briton Hammon, a Negro man"
Christine Charity's Christine's Genealogy Website is a wonderful introduction to genealogy which concentrates on tracing the history of African-Americans in the American South.
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for History 286 (American Women's History), The Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. Send email to email@example.com
. Last modified: Saturday, 21 February 2009.