The Life of a slave girl is a story depicting the slavery experiences of Linda Brent. Linda Brent was born, brought up and lived under the conditions of slavery. The Whites enslaved the Colored people by making them their servants, working in plantations and taking care of their children at home, particularly women.
During those times of slavery, the slaves were bought at a price and their children will inherit the slavery conditions of their parents. The slave owners have the power to dictate the slavery conditions of their slaves for instance their work, changing the masters or mistresses and even their marital status. Linda severely endured and fought for the emancipation of her slavery status by escaping from his master and her mistress, and earnestly praying for the help from God. In this essay, I am going to analyze Linda’s experiences in terms of slavery, racism, gender and compare her unique experience with the experiences of other people.
Since Linda was brought up under slavery conditions, she has experienced a great deal of mistreatment where her human rights were crossly violated. Mr. and Mrs. Flint owned Linda as their slave amongst other slaves hence they had absolute powers over her life in that they can dictate her according to their selfish interests.
Linda was a mother of two kids: Ellen and Benny. These kids were at the disposal of their master and mistress to be sold to any willing slave owner without the consent from the mother. The Kids have inherited the slavery conditions from their parent hence they are slaves by birth and subject to their master and mistress. Linda finds herself between the rock and the hard place when she was told that she hard to part with her children because they are to be shifted to the new masters. She cried helplessly saying that, “my poor children were between two fires: between my old master and their new master! And was powerless” (Jacobs, 1861).
Linda had to endure parting with her two only kids and behave as though she never nursed any child in her life. She vowed to find ways to free her children as confesses that, “…I had no trust in thee, O Slavery! Never should I know peace until my children were emancipated with all due formalities of law” (Jacobs, 1861). She was very determined to free her children and she made a successful escape into New York in the search for her children. During her slavery, Linda experienced torture when her master imprisoned her. She bitterly recounts the experienced saying, “I affirm that I lived in that little dismal hole, almost deprived of light and air, and with no space to move my limbs, for nearly seven years. Nevertheless, it is a fact; and to me a sad one, even now; for my body still suffers from the effects of that long imprisonment, to say nothing of my soul” (Jacobs, 1861). The experience of the prison severely affects her health status and still haunts her soul because she fails to comprehend why she went through such torture.
After Linda had successfully escaped from her master and mistress, she went to New York where she was faced with the great challenge of finding a job to keep her going. She said that, “The greatest difficulty in my way was that those who employ strangers required a recommendation, and in my peculiar position, I could, of course, obtain no certificates from the families I had so faithfully served” (Jacobs, 1861). Her life was going to be very hard unless she come back to her master who can recommend her.
She was very lucky to be employed by a very humble and understanding woman, Mrs. Bruce who gave her a job without requesting a recommendation from her previous master or mistress.
When Linda was traveling to New York, she experienced racial discrimination on her journey as Rev. Jeremiah Durham confessed that, “I am afraid you will have a disagreeable ride, but I could not procure tickets for the first class cars …they don’t allow colored people to go in the first-class cars” (Jacobs, 1861). Linda describes her experiences in the second- class ride, as “It was crowded with people, apparently of all nations. Every other man had a cigar or pipe in his mouth, and jugs of whiskey were handed round freely.
The fumes of the whiskey and the dense tobacco smoke were sickening to my senses and the coarse jokes and ribald songs around me equally nauseated my mind” (Jacobs, 1861). Since she was a woman, it was very hard for her to endure the ride where men were smoking and drinking. During her stay with Mrs. Bruce, Linda experiences racism in the hotels whenever they board, despite the fact that both the whites and the colored pay equally for the services. At some instances, the waiters did not allow her to sit and when she persists, they refuse to serve her until Mrs. Bruce intervenes. The white waiters hate serving the colored people and they complained that, “they were not hired to wait on Negroes” (Jacobs, 1861).
The fugitive law also threatens her stay in the New York because the law requires that all fugitive slaves be identified and returned to their right masters, failure to which the person hiding a fugitive slave is liable to fine and imprisonment. The law shocked many fugitives in that, “Many a wife discovered that her husband was a fugitive, and must leave her to insure his own safety. Worse still, many a husband discovered that his wife had fled from slavery years ago, and as “the child follows the condition of its mother,” the children of his love were liable to be seized and carried into slavery. Everywhere, in those humble homes, there was consternation and anguish” (Jacobs, 1861). As child inherits the slavery conditions of her mother, Linda too was in great fear, as she was a fugitive together with her daughter Ellen but Mrs.
Bruce was willing to pay the price of imprisonment and fine, so she kept her in her house secretly.
The unique experience of Linda is that she was born under slavery conditions. Her grandmother was a slave, her mother inherited the slavery, she becomes a slave, and she has passed on the slavery conditions to her kids. The problem of slavery has continually become part of their family lineage. Unlike, the free white women and free Black African- American women, her children were subject to slavery because the child inherits the conditions of her mother.
In contrast to other men and women, the marriage in slavery was neither legal nor permanent because the master or the mistress dictates the aspects of marriage and divorce depending on their interests, thus Linda had no opportunity to choose the father of her kids. Thus, Linda’s slavery experiences were unique.
Jacobs, H. A.
(1861). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The University of North Carolina. Retrieved 25 October 2010, fromhttp://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/jacobs/jacobs.html