The Harriet Jacobs Papers

Slavery 1813 – 1852


Advertisement for the capture of Harriet Jacobs, American Beacon (daily) Norfolk, Virginia, July 4, 1835. From microfilm in the collection of the North Carolina State Archives. By permission.

1813 – 1842 Slave and Fugitive in the South concerns the experiences of Harriet Jacobs and her family as the property of Edenton’s slaveholding families and her life as a sexually-harrassed teenager, as a mother, and as a hunted fugitive in North Carolina.

1842 – 1852 Fugitive Slave in the North presents Harriet Jacobs’s early writings. These concern her experiences being hunted by slave catchers on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn; her escape to Massachusetts; her friendship with activist William C. Nell; her 1845 trip to England (as a “mammy”); her acquaintance with Sarah Payson Willis Parton (Fanny Fern); her friendship in Rochester, New York with the abolitionist and feminist reformer Amy Kirby Post, who persuaded her tell her life story; the work of her brother, John S. Jacobs, who in 1849 lectured against slavery with Frederick Douglass, then joined the Gold Rushes in California and Australia; and Harriet Jacobs’s 1852 purchase and manumission by her New York employer Cornelia Grinnell Willis, wife of author Nathaniel Parker Willis.