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Harriet A. Jacobs

  • Notwithstanding my grandmother's long and faithful service to her owners, not one of her children escaped the auction block. These God-breathing machines are no more, in the sight of their masters, than the cotton they plant, or the horses they tend.

  • ... I was ordered to go for flowers, that my mistress's house might be decorated for an evening party. I spent the day gathering flowers and weaving them into festoons, while the dead body of my father was lying within a mile of me. What cared my owners for that? he was merely a piece of property. Moreover, they thought he had spoiled his children, by teaching them to feel that they were human beings. This was blasphemous doctrine for a slave to teach; presumptuous in him, and dangerous to the masters.

  • The slave child had no thought for the morrow; but there came that blight, which too surely waits on every human being born to be a chattel.

  • No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery.

  • Cruelty is contagious in uncivilized communities.

  • Could you have seen that mother clinging to her child, when they fastened the irons upon his wrists; could you have heard her heart-rending groans, and seen her bloodshot eyes wander wildly from face to face, vainly pleading for mercy; could you have witnessed that scene as I saw it, you would exclaim, Slavery is damnable!

  • The degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe. They are greater than you would willingly believe.

  • I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.

  • Lives that flash in sunshine, and lives that are born in tears, receive their hue from circumstances.

  • There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you.

  • Friend! It is a common word, often lightly used. Like other good and beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling.

Harriet A. Jacobs, U.S. diarist, abolitionist

(1813 - 1897)

Full name: Harriet Ann Jacobs. This book was originally published under the pseudonym Linda Brent.