Ruminate on the problem of emancipation in American History
Write a 5-page essay in which you ruminate on the problem of emancipation in American
history. Jacobs’ book is written to detail the horrors of slavery, but it is also the journey of one
woman (and her family) as she makes her way toward emancipation. (Slavery is terrifically
important to understand in a historical context because there is more of it worldwide today than
when Harriet was alive. Slavery continues to be a global human rights issue, so think of this
book as something that you might use to understand the complexity of a major social problem –
this is not just a matter of something being ‘in the past’ – slavery is very much alive!)
Answer the following questions:
1. In what ways is Harriet a victim of the system of slavery? How does she fight back?
2. In what ways is Harriet’s gender a factor in how she is treated? How does being a
woman slave make the story different? Moreover, how does her gender identity
change over time? How does it change and why?
3. As a young slave girl of fifteen years, Linda is forced to choose between the virtues
instilled by her much respected Grandmother and her need to assert herself sexually
to avoid further enslavement. Analyze this situation in light of American slavery.
4. Where do we see evidence of Harriet’s attempts at self-empowerment and agency?
We know that slaves were held in bondage against their will, but we also know that
slaves responded in myriad active ways to forge their own freedom. Over the course
of this story, how does Harriet empower herself against her owner and against the
system of slavery?
5. Harriet does not exist in vacuum, even when she goes into hiding. We know that
slavery is a national phenomenon, supported by members of society who don’t even
own slaves. Where can you find evidence of this in the book?