The Harriet Jacobs Papers

Activism 1852 – 1868

1852 – 1862 Freedwoman and Author in the North focuses on the conception, composition, publication and reception of Incidents in America and in England-including Jacobs’s efforts to enlist Harriet Beecher Stowe as her amanuanesis, and her working relationship with her editor Lydia Maria Child. These items also discuss Harriet Jacobs’s brother John S. Jacobs, who had emigrated to England, where he worked as a seaman and joined the London Emancipation Society. In 1861, John S. serialized his own slave narrative, “A True Tale of Slavery,” in the London Leisure Hour.


1862 – 1868 Relief Worker in the South focuses on Jacobs’s work during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Drawing on her celebrity among the followers William Lloyd Garrison, Jacobs made herself a link between northern philanthropists and southern freed people, collecting relief supplies in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts and dispensing them among the black refugees in the South. With her daughter Louisa Matilda Jacobs (who had been trained as a teacher), Jacobs became an “agent” of northern relief groups. Jacobs worked with black refugees in Washington, D. C., Alexandria, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia, where she organized schools and primary health care facilities; she also urged Charlotte Forten to go south. During these years, she reported on her work and on the efforts of Black troops in African-American and activist northern papers, and in the British press.