The brave Harriet Ann Jacobs writes as Linda Brent in her riveting account of her life as a slave and after.
From Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – XLI. Free At Last
By Harriet Ann Jacobs
Harriet Ann Jacobs writes a letter to her closest friend, her grandmother, relating to her of her adventures and misfortunes of her new way of life away from home at the plantation where she was born.Harriet was forcefully taken away from her grandmother to live a life of isolation.
Harriet Jacob’s dream of receiving her long-hoped for emancipation from slavery was to at last become a reality in her revealing account of “Free At Last” and this is her letter to her grandmother as she experienced her life with much difficulty but to receive her freedom at last.
My Dear Grandmother,
How are you along with the rest of the family?I really miss you all so much that words cannot convey just how deeply I feel for the family, especially for you Grandma.I have been well kept for fear of my under good safekeeping by the wonderful Mrs. Bruce and her family.Her ability to read and write was a real blessing for me as well as to go on to teach me to read and write at this moment in my life when things are so tough; but Mrs. Bruce has been a great blessing to me in my time of dire need when escaping my other cruel taskmasters was a real challenge for me and I had to undergo all miserable kinds of harsh treatment as if I was not even a human being.There are so many things that are too unreal for me to mention here in light of your failing heart that I need not burden you unduly.
I was so happy to have received one of the last letters from you, Grandma. Thankfully, Grandma you have at last lived to witness my freedom before you go on and that brought me a deep sense of great relief that my reality was indeed the fulfillment of you Grandma for your life’s aspirations.]The good and crucial news I have to let you know is that my Master, Dr. Flint, has to my joy and relief at last died.
In order just to give you an account of how things are going so far, Grandmother, well, don’t you remember him, Dr. Flint, who was the bane of my very existence?He inflicted every cruel act known upon me without any mercy.His jealousy sprung up as a result of my becoming pregnant with my only lover’s child, of all men, a white attorney, who had taken pity on me in my condition and hour of need.I found solace in his wonderful company, when there was otherwise none to be had from anywhere else and from anyone else.Then I became pregnant again two years later, as you know, with another one of his children and this infuriated Dr. Flint to such a boiling point where my very life was threatened.I was merely being myself, Grandma; you know that, a good person as I knew how to be as a young lady in this harsh and cruel world.
Mrs. Flint, his wife, on the other hand, she showed no real signs of sadness or loss for her husband when he died, since it he who had over several occasions, betrayed her by producing several bastard children by his female slaves on his plantation.She, was of course, extremely jealous of me on account of my beauty and intelligence and the fact that I was the object of Dr. Flint’s affections, and so she did all within her power to give me no kind of good treatment, even in light of the fact that I was the product of a white father, whom I know nothing about, but that did not change her feelings toward me in the least and she gave me the worst of the worst kind of treatment that a slave could get, enduring senseless beatings for opening my mouth such as the other slaves on the plantation simply because I threatened her.
The trusted community doctor was as it turned out to be eventually, in fact, evil personified just like the devil himself.Grandmother, it was with great joy that I was so elated to finally come to the knowledge that he was now finally out of my way six feet under the ground.May God be praised!
One horrifying event for me led to another, in order for me to gain my emancipation, but my destiny for my freedom was at last sealed. My dear benefactor, Mrs. Bruce, was constantly under surveillance by anyone who cared to report a certain runaway slave girl, that being myself, belonging to a Dr. Flint for a mere ransom of $100.Mrs. Bruce, God bless her soul, was a constant source of encouragement and support to me in my hour of need.It was a Mr. Dodge who sought to purchase me to settle Dr. Flint’s financial affairs due to a family feud.However, he was unsuccessful in his quest to obtain me fully as he wanted – body, soul and spirit, I am now in safe hands thanks to Mrs. Bruce.
To quote from my diary, “It has been painful to me, in many ways, to recall the dreary years I passed in bondage.I would gladly forget them if I could.Yet the retrospection is not altogether without solace; for with those gloomy recollections come tender memories of you my good old grandmother, like light, fleecy clouds floating over a dark and troubled sea”(Belasco, Johnson 791).
Grandma, it is now that I finally rest in the assurance that you have at last been witness to see my freedom come at last since I write to you now from my new home in sunny Connecticut here up in the North and my future now seems more secure now and no longer do I have to bear the weight of the whip on my back or lie wide awake at night wondering when will this be all over.The name I now write under to you as you can see is Linda Brent for ensuring my safety and protection in these uncertain times.Now, it is all over, and here I am peacefully with my children.My lover has now abandoned me for a white woman that he fancied and since my social situation would forever be an embarrassment for him I then let him go to roam as he may and settle in his world as he is accustomed to.
Grandma, my love for you will never fade as I will always remember the days when you always told me stories when I was a little girl on the plantation of my old ancestors and what they endured and their victories that they triumphed in.Send my love to all as I miss them so.
I will expectl write to you soon again when all around me is peace and complete safety.May God richly bless you all.
Your dearly beloved granddaughter,
Your Granddaughter, Harriet
[as Linda Brent]
Belasco, Susan; Johnson, Linck.The Bedford Anthology of
American Literature.Boston:Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2008.