"The laws were laid down to me anew": Harriet Jacobs and the reframing of legal fictions.
As a multiply disfranchised subject, Jacobs writes against the dominant voices of Southern slave law and of the law itself. Antebellum legal scholars, like her contemporary Thomas Cobb (a Georgian who wrote the fundamental Southern treatise on slave law), framed their defenses of slavery in the falsely neutral and universal terms of legal rationality and precedent, while discrediting or omitting slave voices.(3) In numerous and varied ways, the laws of slavery attempted to erase and silence African Americans, to deny their subjectivity, to say they did not exist as individuals. Laws governing legal testimony, racial identity, literacy, miscegenation, rape, and reproduction defined slaves and African Americans in specific yet contradictory ways - as nonhuman, with dangerous sexuality and nonexistent subjectivity. These legal and political fictions were just that - constructed fictions - but they have had tremendous power. Analyzing legal, political, and literary discourses of slavery can help deconstruct these fictions and their power (which did not vanish with emancipation). This article examines nineteenth-century statutes and Thomas Cobb's 1858 legal treatise alongside Harriet Jacobs's critique of slave law in order to probe contradictions in discourses of slavery and to demystify legal fictions more broadly.
Part of the power of legal discourse is its pretense at objectivity, neutrality, and rationality. The legal system attempts to make its workings and maneuvers invisible. Exposing instabilities and slippages, as Harriet Jacobs does in her narrative, helps to demystify these workings, not just in slave law but in its descendants as well. Legal scholar Angela Harris argues that introducing multiple voices and shifting perspectives as a theoretical approach to both law and literature can help dislodge this appearance of neutrality. In "Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory," Harris argues for "multiple consciousness" as an antidote to disciplinary restrictions in the voices of law and literature. It is crucial, she argues, not to let either possible extreme - the single "neutral" voice of law or the lack of context of literature-narrow the scope. While law and literature often are seen as occupying completely different spaces, challenging these boundaries can illuminate the study of both disciplines. Harris discusses literary and legal scholars who "struggle against their discipline s grain,"(4) and she argues for the need "to understand both legal and literary discourse as the complex struggle and unending dialogue between these voices." She seeks not a "static equilibrium between two extremes, but rather a process in which propositions are constantly put forth, challenged, and subverted" (237). I want to use her approach to destabilize the seemingly neutral language of law and policy by critiquing these discourses and eventually shifting discussion to other narratives as well. "In order to energize legal theory," argues Harris, "we need to subvert it with narratives and stories, accounts of the particular, the different, and the hitherto silenced" (255). I want to subvert the falsely "neutral" categories of slave law with narratives from Harriet Jacobs's book and with resistant readings of the laws themselves. Jacobs herself takes such an approach by subverting the dominant discourses with multiple voices and accounts of the silenced.
Such a project is important not only to understand a past moment in history, but also to contribute to an understanding of racism and legal discourse in the present. The current political climate in the U.S. is marked by both retrenchments in civil rights law and claims of progress and "color-blindness." From the Supreme Court's dilution of voting rights to the UC Board of Regents' elimination of affirmation action, attacks on the gains of the last three decades are cloaked in the language of neutrality and fairness. Judge and legal scholar A. Leon Higginbotham provides strategies for decoding such language through his examination of both slave law in U.S. history and racism in current law. Arguing that Americans must pay attention to the legal roots of slavery, he exposes various ways the seemingly neutral law sought to deny personhood to slaves and to African Americans more generally. "However tightly woven into the history of their country is the legalization of black suppression," he writes, "many Americans still find it too traumatic to study the true story of racism as it has existed under their 'rule of law'" (11). This "true story" is difficult to come by through a passive reading of law. Since "the language of the law shields one's consciousness from direct involvement with the stark plight of its victims," Higginbotham argues for a "skeptical reading" of legal discourse. Slave narratives can provide some of the material for such a reading of antebellum law. While Higginbotham focuses on historical analysis, he also points to modern legacies: "The poisonous legacy of legalized oppression based upon the matter of color can never be adequately purged from our society if we act as if slave laws had never existed" (391). By examining legal tellings of slavery in the mid-nineteenth century, from apologist Thomas Cobb to abolitionist Harriet Jacobs, we can confront that existence of slave law in an historical moment when debate over the legality of slavery was especially fierce. In the midst of modern-day claims of color-blindness and race neutrality,(5) it is particularly crucial to confront our history of legalized racial oppression.
"I have diligently sought for Truth": Thomas Cobb and the Rhetoric of Objectivity
Harriet Jacobs wrote her book during the 1850s, after Congress had further federalized slavery by passing the Fugitive Slave Act and after celebrated abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose literary help had been sought, questioned Jacobs's authenticity and suggested incorporating Jacobs's story in her own upcoming book.(6) Both of these events helped to persuade Jacobs of the importance of publishing her own account of slavery. She completed her manuscript in 1858, the same year that Thomas Cobb published An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America: To Which is Prefixed, An Historical Sketch of Slavery. In these years before the secession of the South, legal debates over slavery had taken on particular currency. A Georgia attorney, highly respected legal scholar, and later a framer of the Confederate Constitution, Cobb produced the only comprehensive Southern treatise on slave law.(7) Cobb would play a key role in articulating and interpreting Southern law, producing several legal works used by lawyers, law students, and judges, in his home state and elsewhere.(8) His articulation of slaveholding ideology expressed the dominant legal fictions that Jacobs counters in her narrative.(9) Cobb's treatise uses the rhetoric of legal "objectivity," positioning itself as neutrally based on law and precedent, while making an argument. Without stating his position as a position, Cobb supports the institution of slavery and constructs an argument about human enslavement as a positive good. Significantly, Cobb is not an extremist or even much of a partisan in his time; he is comfortably inside the dominant conversation - civilized, scientific, legal, rational.
That Cobb connects the law to eternal truths is made clear in the prospectus for the law school Cobb co-founded with his father-in-law Judge Joseph Lumpkin (who wrote key rulings on slave law).(10) The founders declare their intention "to teach law, not as a collection of arbitrary rules, but as a connected logical system, founded on principles which appeal for their sanction to eternal truth" (qtd. in McCash 125). The preface to his slavery treatise asserts objectivity: "My book has no political, no sectional purpose." Quickly noting and dismissing his likely bias as a Southerner, he affirms, "I have diligently sought for Truth, and have written nothing which I did not recognize as bearing her image" (x). With "Truth" as his goal, declarations of "fact" permeate the book. His assertions, though questionable, are frequently preceded with "in fact" or "it being admitted by all" or followed by "are indisputable facts." He rarely tries to persuade on the surface level: He merely recites "facts" and invokes "reason." Cobb sets zeal against reason and puts abolitionists in the camp of zealots. He indicts the "infatuated zeal of many fanatics." "In fact," he states, putting us in the realm of reason, "the history of abolitionism in the United States has been the history of fanaticism everywhere . . . . "He repeats that "in fact" any obstacles such extremists meet only "feed the flame of zeal, and more effectually dethrone the reason" (ccix-ccx). Cobb asserts that questions about the federal role in stopping slavery - questions that at this moment were setting the stage for civil war - are mere trivialities: "That these questions may be allowed here to rest, and be no longer used as hobbies by interested demagogues to excite sectional strifes for personal advancement, should be the sincere wish of every true American citizen" (ccxi). While Cobb asserts and reasserts his objectivity and claims to be on the side of "true" Americanism, anyone supporting national abolition is characterized as "interested."
"We could have told them a different story": Placing Frames at the Center
Harriet Jacobs and Thomas Cobb both claim the truth, but they have very different views of truth-telling, objectivity, and evidence. Jacobs frames her own text - an autobiographical narrative told by "Linda Brent," a constructed first-person narrator - with an awareness of framing and with attention to multiple perspectives. Jacobs knows that context matters and that narratives frequently are contested. The first line of the preface promises truth: "Reader, be assured, this narrative is no fiction" (1). Unlike Cobb, however, Jacobs does not pretend to lack purpose or agenda. Jacobs not only crafts her text with great power and purpose, but she also calls attention to craft in various ways. She often presents two different versions of something to reveal the differences between versions depending on the framer and her or his agenda. This approach reminds her reader to question sources and pay attention to who is telling the story.
For example, when Linda Brent is hiding in her grandmother's attic (her refuge for seven years while she plans her escape to the North), she writes a letter to try to fool her owner, Dr. Flint, into thinking that she is already in the North. Jacobs includes both the summary of Brent's staged letter to her grandmother as well as the text of a falsified letter with which Flint replaces it. Jacobs includes Flint's counterfeit letter in direct quotes and indented, so it looks real, but she precedes it with a discrediting introduction: "The old villain! He had suppressed the letter I wrote to grandmother, and prepared a substitute of his own" (130). So the letter appears genuine, but we know it is fake. Jacobs is fully aware of the many layers of representation here. Flint invents a manipulative and phony version of the letter, and the hidden Brent - along with the reader - is in the privileged position of knowing that he is lying. The "original" letter, however, also is a construction and a manipulation, as Brent, hiding in North Carolina, pretends to write from New York. In fact, the narrator obtains the data for the false letter by lifting street names from a proslavery newspaper: "It was a piece of the New York Herald," she writes, "and, for once, the paper that systematically abuses the colored people, was made to render them a service" (128). Jacobs uses the Herald subversively, reminding us that texts are used - that they can be employed, deployed, reframed, and revised for various purposes, good and bad.
By juxtaposing different framings, Jacobs dislodges the speaking authority of those who are complicit in slavery. While status might otherwise validate these voices, Jacobs urges us to question the source. The narrator reports a white version of her brother William's escape before she recounts William's own version, for example. Mr. Sands, the white father of Linda Brent's children (and a member of Congress), purchases Brent's brother, supposedly with plans to free him, and takes him to the North. Once there, the brother flees, and Brent hears two different tellings of the escape. In this pairing of stories, Jacobs first includes the white slaveholder's rendition without comment, presented as Sands's direct words. Then she immediately follows that version with another, in the narrator's voice, opening with: "I afterwards heard an account of the affair from William himself" (136). The direct quotes around the white man's story do not lend it validity. In fact, quoting the story without interruption, like quoting and indenting Flint's fictitious letter, highlights its constructedness. Jacobs's text clearly forces us to notice sources and speakers and to take into account agendas and points of view. In particular, anyone implicated in the institution of slavery, including the seemingly well-meaning Sands (who also neglects to free Brent's children), is to be viewed with special skepticism. The conditions and events of slavery, Jacobs contends, are best conveyed by the voices of slaves themselves.
Jacobs demonstrates a subtler contrast with the difference between a constructed white telling of Aunt Nancy's funeral and an implied slave perspective. She provides pages of context and history, describing Mrs. Flint's cruelty and hypocrisy toward Nancy in life and death, and then observes:
Northern travellers, passing through the place, might have described this tribute of respect to the humble dead as a beautiful feature in the "patriarchal institution"; a touching proof of the attachment between slaveholders and their servants; and tenderhearted Mrs. Flint would have confirmed this impression, with handkerchief at her eyes. We could have told them a different story. (146-47)
Jacobs argues for multiple representations by and for African Americans - the italicized "We" who "could have" offered an alternative narrative. The dominant narrative is represented by the quoted and discredited phrase "patriarchal institution." She cautions against believing interpretations that fail to take into account multiple perspectives and silenced voices. Neither story actually is told here: Whites "might have described" those images; slaves "could have told" them something different. Different, contested framings exist even when they have not yet been uttered. Jacobs demands an active reader who will focus on the "different story" that normally remains untold or unheard, from sources likely to be unauthorized or silenced.
As Jacobs was well aware, various laws existed in the nineteenth century to silence slaves, to attempt to deny them a legal, political, or literary voice. They could not testify against a white person or serve on a jury. They could not vote, run for office, or petition the government. They generally were barred from learning, teaching, or practicing reading and writing.(11) Free blacks were denied many of these rights as well. While slavery's defenders asserted that the enslaved were happy, they also were determined not to let these happy slaves say a public word, whether in a courtroom, ballot box, or novel. The official line on slavery declared that slaves had no subjectivity to speak of, yet there was tremendous anxiety that there be no public arena where such a subjectivity might somehow speak. This central contradiction helps reveal the fictions underlying legal constructions of slavery.
The official story suggested that slaves had no will, and no real arena in which to express any such will. As it turns out, the official story was not the true story. Slaves and ex-slaves - like Lucy Delaney's mother and Sojourner Truth, for example, who both sued for their children's freedom - found their way into courtrooms.(12) Numerous slaves learned to read and write, and taught others to do the same, and many used their literacy in the fight against slavery, from the well-known cases of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs to individuals like the Louisiana woman who taught hundreds of fellow slaves to read in her clandestine "midnight school" (Davis 22). Such gaps between legal fictions and actual experiences occurred in various forms, and exploring these gaps reminds present-day scholars not to rely upon "official" discourses alone. Especially interesting here is the anxiety-ridden attention to detail in the official discourses designed to suppress the subjectivity that slaveholders claimed did not exist in the first place.
"His mouth being closed as a witness": Bans on Slave Testimony
Those who escaped from slavery were particularly aware of the power of testifying against the institution they had left behind. In her preface, Harriet Jacobs declares: "I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is" (1-2). The idea of "testifying" or "witnessing" is a powerful trope in nineteenth-century African American literature. Frances Smith Foster, in her essay "Testing and Testifying: The Word, the Other, and African American Women Writers," states that, in revising American literary tradition, African American women "were testifying to the fact of their existence and insisting that others acknowledge their existence and their testimonies" (2). Jacobs's act of publishing her story directly confronts the context of states' outlawing slave testimony against whites. While not naming individual slaveholders, Jacobs is testifying against all slaveholders and the institution of slavery. She is bearing witness, and her book is entered as evidence. This language of testimony, which also has religious connotations, is metaphoric. At the same time, Jacobs quite literally is giving evidence of crimes - wrongs that cannot be prosecuted legally, since witnessed by and committed against slaves. Denied a legal voice, Jacobs prosecutes the perpetrators through her literary voice. Her book becomes a symbolic courtroom - a lawsuit for her own freedom and a criminal trial against slaveholders and complicit Northerners. Whatever the law says, once someone reads Jacobs's book, her testimony has been presented and she becomes both a witness and a subject, a position slave law tries to deny.
In testimony restrictions, as in many slave laws of the period, the language used to identify who was affected frequently addressed an individual's condition and the degree of that individual's blackness. Virginia's law, for example, stated that "any negro or mulatto, bond or free, shall be a good witness in pleas of the commonwealth for or against negroes or mulattoes, bond or free, or in civil pleas where free negroes or mulattoes shall alone be parties, and in no other cases whatsoever."(13) By listing all the circumstances under which an African American may speak in court, the phrasing makes it sound as if the act creates a right, whereas it actually restricts a right by silencing such a witness in any case involving whites. The number of categories invoked - negro, mulatto, bond, free - reveals anxiety about the complications of slave society. The law attempts to include every possible permutation to make sure the presence of African blood (which seems to be the real fear here, not simply the status of being a slave) absolutely bars testimony against whites. Thomas Cobb cites such restrictions as proper and justified by both condition and race. The fact that many states, including some free states, extended the ban to free blacks is evidence for Cobb that race rightfully is the disqualifier. Cobb argues that the ban "is founded not only upon the servile condition of the negro, but also upon his known disposition to disregard the truth" (226). "That the negro, as a general rule, is mendacious, is a fact too well established to require the production of proof, either from history, travels, or craniology" (233). Here Cobb invokes a variety of disciplines - history, anthropology, science - to authorize his unsupported assertion, named as fact.
"Mental instruction in a secret or confined place": Literacy Restrictions on Slaves
Under the legal fictions of slavery, slaves could not read or write or teach others to do so. Many slaves, of course, did read and write and teach. But denying blacks legal access to literacy served the purposes of a slave society, since literacy was a marker for reason and reason a marker for humanity. This circular proposition naturalized what was a legal constraint, and it functioned as a convenient, self-fulfilling prophecy.(14) Cobb briefly addresses the writings of slaves, in a skeptical summary of a published abolitionist collection of black achievements. He reinterprets this "testimony" for his own purposes:
. . . in poetry we have Phillis Wheatley, whose productions Mr. Jefferson pronounced to be "beneath criticism." In composition, is Gustavus Vasa, whose only work was a narrative of himself (by whom written, or revised we know not), which would hardly give credit to a schoolboy in his teens. (45)
Cobb mocks the "meagreness" and the quality of this work, then observes that the majority of writers cited are former slaves, concluding, "The inference would seem irresistible, from the testimony of this volume, that the most successful engine for the development of negro intellect is slavery" (46). Cobb wants it both ways: Slavery is justified because slaves are ignorant, and if one is found who is not, then that only proves the beneficial effects of slavery.
For all his citations, Cobb never quotes African Americans, supporting his claim that they have no literate voice. He does not mention that slave literacy was generally outlawed. In the effort to enact the self-fulfilling prophecy of slave ignorance, anti-literacy laws placed slaves in physical danger if they pursued learning. Harriet Jacobs tells the story of breaking the law to teach an old man to read the Bible.(15) The narrator tells "Uncle Fred" (and the reader) the legal implications of their act: "I asked him if he didn't know it was contrary to law; and that slaves were whipped and imprisoned for teaching each other to read. This brought tears into his eyes" (72). The risk of whipping is framed by descriptions of Fred's earnest religious faith. The extremity of the punishment is in stark contrast to the gentleness of this criminal accomplice. In their state of North Carolina, the law specified different penalties depending upon the race and condition of the lawbreaker:
Any free person who shall teach any slave to read or write upon conviction shall if a white man or woman, be fined not less than 100 dollars, nor more than 200 dollars, or imprisoned; and if a free person of colour, shall be fined, imprisoned or whipped, not exceeding 39 lashes, nor less than 20. And for a similar offense, a slave shall receive 39 lashes on his or her bare back. (34 Rev. Statutes of NC 74: 209; cited in Stroud 61, emphasis his)
As with so many other laws under slavery, there is a specific breakdown along lines of color and condition. Status determines how much money the offender would lose, but race determines whether physical integrity could also be violated. A free black could be treated as harshly as a white (subject to fine or imprisonment) and as harshly as a slave (up to thirty-nine lashes). Only a slave, however, has the bodily details so specified: Unlike the amount of the fine, the number of lashes and the bareness of the back are not left to the court's discretion. The specificity reveals not only the brutality of the punishment, but also the public nature of the slave body, according to law.
"The want of chastity in the female slaves": Lascivious Slaves and Honorable Statutes
The slave body also is regulated by laws involving sex, reproduction, and family. Such laws also deny subjectivity and reveal inconsistencies and instabilities. Interracial sex, for instance, is banned, whereas interracial rape is not.(16) Permitting slave marriage or prohibiting rape might suggest the humanity of slaves and could challenge the fictions upholding slavery. Southern law generally failed to protect slave women from rape committed by fellow slaves as well. The rape of white women, however, was punishable by death if the man convicted of the act was a slave.
Thomas Cobb's treatment of rape is simultaneously to deny its existence and to blame slave women for interracial sex. Rather than naming the rape of female slaves, he shifts the causal relationship so that the lechery of slave women is defined as the problem. "An evil attributed to slavery, and frequently alluded to," writes Cobb in the historical preface to his legal treatise, "is the want of chastity in the female slaves, and a corresponding immorality in the white males" (ccxix). Slave women become the cause and white immorality merely the correspondence. Cobb uses qualifiers and indefinite references, which cloud how he is removing white responsibility: ". . . to the extent that the slave is under the control and subject to the order of the master, the condition of slavery is responsible." The "condition," not the men, may be responsible, "to the extent" that slavery gives power to the master. Having nearly blamed slavery, Cobb readjusts quickly by invoking what he considers another well-known fact: "Every well-informed person at the South, however, knows that the exercise of such power for such a purpose is almost unknown. The prevalence of the evil is attributable to other causes. The most prominent of these is the natural lewdness of the negro. It is not the consequence of slavery. The free negro . . exhibits the same disposition. . . ." He must blame race, not the institution, so the flaw becomes "natural." This immorality results not only from female lust, this legal scholar asserts, but also from female cunning: ". . . the negress knows that the offspring of such intercourse, the mulatto, having greater intelligence, and being indeed a superior race, has a better opportunity of enjoying the privileges of domestics; in other words, is elevated by the mixture of blood" (ccxix-ccxx). He makes mulattoes a separate and "superior race," permitting an additional layer of hierarchy. He makes absolutist declarations about the characteristics of the races, yet race itself is not absolute, by his own admission.(17)
In the course of his legal analysis, Cobb eventually acknowledges that the failure to address the rape of slaves is a "defect in our legislation," but he asserts that this is a theoretical defect only. Such "occurrence is almost unheard of," he remarks, and to the extent it does occur, there is the factor of "the known lasciviousness of the negro." Finally, Cobb suggests a change in the law not for the honor of black women but "for the honor of the statute-book" (99-100). The brief slippage of acknowledging the rape of black women, previously constructed as essentially un-rapeable, is quickly covered up. Placed at the center is the chastity of the statute book. Cobb's legal treatise constructs personhood and subjectivity not in the slaves but in the law and the text of the law. The slippage also reveals the contradiction of constructing slaves without subjectivity but with dangerous sexuality - black women are not subjects, under this configuration, but they can be dangerous agents against white men.
Case law erased not only the rape of slaves by white men, but also the rape of female slaves by fellow slaves. The lawyer in the 1859 Mississippi case George v. State argued, successfully, that the rape of a black female was essentially not rape:
The crime of rape does not exist in this State between African slaves. Our laws recognize no marital rights as between slaves; their sexual intercourse is left to be regulated by their owners. The regulations of law, as to the white race, on the subject of sexual intercourse, do not and cannot, for obvious reasons, apply to slaves; their intercourse is promiscuous, and the violation of a female slave by a male slave would be a mere assault and battery. (George v. State 317; see discussion in Burnham)
The female slave in this case was under ten. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice William Harris relied on prior cases as well as ancient Roman law and multiple references to Cobb's Law of Slavery to decide against recognizing the crime of rape against a slave. Exceptions to such precedent Harris dismissed as "founded mainly upon the unmeaning twaddle, in which some humane judges and law writers have indulged, as to the influence of the 'natural law,"civilization and Christian enlightenment'. . . . From a careful examination of our legislation . . ., we are satisfied that there is no act which embraces either the attempted or actual commission of a rape by a slave on a female slave" (320). The power of legal precedent makes it easy to erase the specifics of the case. The unevenness of precedent is itself erased by dismissing exceptions as "unmeaning twaddle" and mere "humane" indulgence.
In an 1852 Georgia case where the minor was white, the legal result was different. While the slave is constructed as inherently promiscuous even at the age of nine - the white female is constructed as inherently virtuous. The opinion in Stephen v. State was delivered by Judge Lumpkin and reported by Cobb. Lumpkin declared that he would try to be dispassionate, even though "the crime, from the very nature of it, is calculated to excite indignation in every heart; and when perpetrated on a free white female of immature mind and body, that indignation becomes greater, and is more difficult to repress" (230). As he moves through evidence and legal precedents, he concludes in increasingly first-person terms: "I would, were I in the Jury-Box, seize upon the slightest proof of resistance . . . even the usual struggles of a modest maiden, young and inexperienced in such mysteries, to find . . . that the act was against her will, and that the presumption of law was so strong, as to amount to proof of force" (239). The indignation arises not from the crime of rape, but from the idea of rape against "free white" females. Lumpkin's emotional language - "excite," "heart," "seize" - combined with the romanticized image of white seduction - "struggles of a modest maiden . . . inexperienced in such mysteries" - suggest not sensitivity to the vulnerability of women to male power but rather outrage at black male access to a white maiden. No such indignation appeared in the Mississippi case where the young girl was black.[ohms](18)
"Do not judge": Rewriting Legal Fictions of Womanhood
Harriet Jacobs counters this idea of the "want of chastity" in slave women and specifically revises the premise of white women's inherent virtue versus black women's inherent corruption. She rewrites virtue as a legal construction, as opposed to a racialized, naturalized fact. Viewed in the social context of ideologies of "true" womanhood and the literary context of women's domestic fiction, Jacobs radically subverts convention as she calls for revised standards that account for the experiences of black women.(19) She admits breaking certain rules of womanhood and declares that these rules ought not apply to slave women; she invokes bonds between black and white women and points out the legal differences. She critiques absolute and unvarying standards, and her style of shifting perspectives - and of calling attention to whose perspective is authorized - helps to convey this critique.
Jacobs breaks down the division between white and black women partly through her direct appeals to a constructed audience, designed to evoke "womanly" sympathy and to call for political action. ". . . I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North," Jacobs announces in her preface, "to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse" (1). She both claims unity and emphasizes difference in these appeals. The audience she invokes is the stereotypical construct of the virtuous "true (white) woman," morally bound to feel sympathy for her suffering sisters. Whether or not members of her audience live up to this fiction is secondary to playing the constructions off each other. According to Jacobs, the "virtue" of slave women is different from that of free Northern women not because of nature or essence but because of legal status. White women have the protection of the law, while laws - and the men who make them - conspire against slave women. Black women might be just as virtuous, but they face laws that prevent their exercise of virtue. White women might be less virtuous, but they have laws protecting their virtue and their homes (constructed as the repositories of white female virtue). In both cases, but for the law, their virtue might be otherwise.
Emotional appeals of identification to her white sisters at the north are sometimes followed by stark declarations of how the narrator's situation is different. The narrator seeks sympathy from her "virtuous reader" and simultaneously tells her, "You never knew what it is to be a slave." Her poetic appeal is immediately followed by the calm conclusion: "Still, in looking back, calmly, on the events of my life, I feel that the slave woman ought not to be judged by the same standard as others" (56). Jacobs uses techniques of sentimental fiction while subversively undercutting some of the expectations of this genre. Jacobs makes sentimental appeals to her reader, and at times turns the appeal into an indictment. She moves between personal statements ("my life") and more generalized, generic declarations ("a slave," "the slave girl") to make her argument personal and political. Differences result from categories of race and condition, not individual choices or shortcomings on her part. The bond she seeks goes beyond personal sympathy (though that is the avenue) and becomes political union as well. On the verge of confessing her sexual transgression, for example, the narrator interrupts herself:
But, O, ye happy women, whose purity has been sheltered from childhood, who have been free to choose the objects of your affection, whose homes are protected by law, do not judge the poor desolate slave girl too severely! If slavery had been abolished, I, also, . . . could have had a home shielded by laws; and I should have been spared the painful task of confessing what I am now about to relate. . . . (54)
If white women possess the "true womanhood" characteristics of virtue and domesticity, it is because laws create and protect these elements. Their "purity" is not inherent but "has been sheltered"; their "homes" are not automatically intact but "are protected by law." Jacobs uses a legal model for her appeal and subverts it. The language of confession, judgment, and pardon suggests that the narrator might be setting herself up as supplicant or criminal and the white women as judge. While offering to confess, however, Jacobs's narrator simultaneously commands that her audience "not judge" - she undercuts the reader's authority to render judgment even as she sets the reader up as judge.
"A hearthstone of my own": Familial Fictions
Slavery advocates construct another central contradiction: Families do not matter to slaves, and slave families are preserved.(20) Cobb treats separation as an unfortunate possibility that, like rape, never really happens: "That the marriage relation between slaves is not recognized or protected by the law, is another evil. . . . In practice, public opinion protects the relation. The unfeeling separation of husband and wife, is a rare occurrence. It never happens when both belong to the same master" (ccxxi). Protecting slave relations, he cautions, is a dilemma "of exceeding nicety and difficulty." On the one hand,
the unnecessary and wanton separation of persons standing in the relation of husband and wife, though it may rarely, if ever, occur in actual practice, is an event which, if possible, should be guarded against by the law. And yet . . . to fasten upon a master of a female slave, a vicious, corrupting negro, sowing discord, and dissatisfaction among all his slaves; or else a thief, or a cut-throat, and to provide no relief against such a nuisance, would be to make the holding of slaves a curse to the master. It would be well for the law, at least, to provide against such separations of families by the officers of the law. . . . How much farther the lawgiver may go, requires for its solution all the deliberation and wisdom of the Senator, guided and enlightened by Christian philanthropy. (245-46)
The owner is to be protected from being helpless before the marital rights of slaves. The most important actor is "the Senator," whose Christian charity shall decide the fate of slave families. In addition to denying the separation of spouses, Cobb also denies the prevalence of separating children from a parent: "The young child is seldom removed from the parent's protection, and beyond doubt, the institution prevents the separation of families, to an extent unknown among the laboring poor of the world" (ccxviii). The institution is not merely humane to families, it is also superior to systems of white labor. Evidence is cited through one personal example in a footnote: "On my father's plantation, an aged negro woman could call together more than one hundred of her lineal descendants. I saw this old negro dance at the wedding of her great granddaughter." Cobb invokes as proof a familiar stereotype of the happy, dancing slave.(21)
Jacobs shows that, despite the legal erasure of slave families, family survives, though often in a redefined form. The redefinition of family is part of her redefinition of womanhood and is linked to her reformulation of the domestic novel. She subverts the marriage plot of domestic fiction, the expectation that the story will end with male-female domestic union. Family is privileged, but husband is not; motherhood is valued, but marriage specifically is omitted. While the last chapter of Jane Eyre opens with "Reader, I married him," Jacobs offers no such hope of domestic closure. "Reader," opens her penultimate paragraph, "my story ends with freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage" (201). She dethrones marriage as the goal, replacing it with legal and physical freedom and family outside of marriage, and she even questions the compromised nature of this freedom. The climax of this chapter is not a marriage contract but a bill of sale.(22) This legal record of Brent's freedom yields not personal triumph but political outrage:
"The bill of sale!" Those words struck me like a blow. So I was sold at last! A human being sold in the free city of New York! The bill of sale is on record, and future generations will learn from it that women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the nineteenth century of the Christian religion. (200)
The chapter titled "Free at Last" climaxes with the revelation that she instead is "sold at last." Jacobs locates the geographic, religious, and temporal moment of this outrage to direct possibilities for political action. Instead of celebrating the happy personal resolution, she forces her readers to redirect anger at the still existing political situation. Brent still lives with racism and class division. She still lives in a position of servitude, even if constructed as grateful service to the woman who purchased her. Laws of slavery no longer directly bind her, but God as well as "love, duty, gratitude, also bind me to her side." Hers is a lesser version of slavery (she is bound because paid for) and an altered version of marriage (she is bound for love, duty, and a bill of sale). Because of this economic status, the final image of her life is one of domesticity denied: "I do not sit with my children in a home of my own. I still long for a hearthstone of my own, however humble. I wish it for my children's sake far more than for my own" (201). Domestic motherhood more than marriage is the goal, and that goal is both achieved and frustrated.
Marriage is mentioned - and dismissed - fairly early in the book, and its denial is the result of legal not romantic factors. The narrator halts the story of her romance with a freeborn carpenter with a reminder of her legal status: "But when I reflected that I was a slave, and that the laws gave no sanction to the marriage of such, my heart sank within me" (37). She opens this chapter, "The Lover," with sentimental language of "the tendrils of the heart" but ends with stark delineations of her lack of options under the law: "Even if he could have obtained permission to marry me while I was a slave, the marriage would give him no power to protect me from my master. . . . And then, if we had children, I knew they must 'follow the condition of the mother'" (42). She quotes directly the law that guarantees slaveholders ownership of children produced by slave women, through voluntary or involuntary unions, with enslaved or free men.(23) Jacobs exposes in no uncertain terms the motivation of such a regulation when Brent later does have children. Even though the father is white and free, Brent cannot ignore Flint's threat to sell her child: "I knew the law gave him power to fulfil it; for slaveholders have been cunning enough to enact that 'the child shall follow the condition of the mother,' not of the father, thus taking care that licentiousness shall not interfere with avarice" (76). Her succinct analysis names the law for what it is - an intersection of gender, sex, race, and economics. Her reframing exposes the legal fiction. Cold, legalistic language is followed by her naming the real motivation: the desires of licentious and avaricious slaveholders. Jacobs quotes the law a third time, in the chapter on the Fugitive Slave Act, pointing out the complications of this irrational federal law, newly passed and intersecting with existing irrational state laws, for residents of a so-called free state: ". . . 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" (191). She articulates the contradiction that slave law powerfully stands in the way of family and that some version of family does powerfully endure.
"Regulations of robbers": Exposing Ironies of Legal Fictions
While Cobb worries about the "honor" of the statutes, Jacobs constructs the law as dishonorable. Jacobs often plays with the definition of crime to point to the ironies of slave law. While the law constructs white women as chaste, slave law obliges slave women to obey their masters at any cost. The narrator describes a slave's struggle to preserve her "pride of character" - a trait marked as feminine for white society. But because she is a slave, virtue is criminalized: "It is deemed a crime in her to wish to be virtuous." Indeed, such a life is worse than the life of the criminal, as Jacobs's imagery makes clear: "The felon's home in a penitentiary is preferable" (31). The chapter "Still in Prison" uses similar imagery and addresses the irony of Brent's freedom as a prisoner in her grandmother's garret. She could wish Flint no worse punishment, "yet the laws allowed him to be out in the free air, while I, guiltless of crime, was pent up here, as the only means of avoiding the cruelties the laws allowed him to inflict upon me!" (121). The law endorses cruelties against black women and outlaws opposition to these cruelties. Thus, Brent's every action against Flint's rape attempts can be deemed criminal by Flint. The narrator, following her child's birth, describes one of Flint's outbursts in legal terminology: "Then he launched out upon his usual themes, - my crimes against him, and my ingratitude for his forbearance. The laws were laid down to me anew, and I was dismissed" (61). These particular laws are metaphoric, but the literal law is clearly on Flint's side as well. The larger irony here is that it is Jacobs who ultimately lays down the law anew by deconstructing legal fictions in the course of her narrative, which long outlives Flint and his real-life counterparts. She recodes the law as criminal to undercut the legitimacy of legal practices in the South and North. When Flint is pursuing Brent in the North, she evaluates her legal standing and then reframes these legal fictions: "I knew the law would decide that I was his property, and would probably still give his daughter a claim to my children; but I regarded such laws as the regulations of robbers, who had no rights that I was bound to respect" (187). The keepers of the laws become the outlaws, and her allegiance is to some higher law, not made by white men.(24)
Part of Jacobs's purpose in emphasizing law is to shift the focus to the institution of slavery, as it was designed and supported, as opposed to mere exceptions or excesses. Focusing at times on national law also helps reveal Northern complicity in Southern slavery. Through measures like the Fugitive Slave Act, she reframes the practice of slavery from a Southern tradition to a federal problem. This shift also serves her call for activism, especially from Northern white women. She also wishes to indict the North for its own legal manifestations of racism. Brent rides in segregated trains and boats, stays in segregated hotels, and describes racist work rules and work places. When she thinks she can buy a better seat on a Northern train, her Northern friends explain: "O, no . . . . They don't allow colored people to go in the first-class cars" (162). The narrator compares this affront to Southern treatment: "Colored people were allowed to ride in a filthy box, behind white people, at the south, but they were not required to pay for the privilege. It made me sad to find how the north aped the customs of slavery" (162-63). Even when Brent is immune from a particular policy of segregation (in the following case because she was serving as nurse to a white woman), Jacobs uses that very exemption to condemn the practice:
Being in servitude to the Anglo-Saxon race, I was not put into a "Jim Crow car," . . . neither was I invited to ride through the streets on top of trunks in a truck; but every where I found the same manifestations of that cruel prejudice, which so discourages the feelings, and represses the energies of the colored people. (176)
Her description makes the exception she benefited from sound little different from slavery. Her conclusion makes a connection between external laws and practices and internal reactions. Her proposals for action generally address whites in the North, calling on them to take action against slavery for their black sisters. At the close of this chapter, Jacobs also calls for action among fellow African Americans, having first warned against the repression of their energies. After describing her persistence in the face of racist treatment at a Northern hotel, she reveals her triumph in quiet, general terms: "Finding I was resolved to stand up for my rights, they concluded to treat me well." She does not stop at example, however, going on to declare: "Let every colored man and woman do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled under foot by our oppressors" (177). Everyone who might read her book - black or white, Northern or Southern - is given avenues for action. She seeks in her testimony not only to inform and educate, but also to enrage and activate.
While not always read as legal critique, Harriet Jacobs's narrative certainly issues a call to activism - a demand to reframe the law and redefine standards of womanhood. Since Thomas Cobb argues through the law, he always claims rationality and objectivity, not the "zealous interest" of abolitionist tracts. Part of Cobb's power is his pretense at disinterest and political neutrality. Part of the power of racism is its ability (in ever-static and ever-changing ways) to appear rational, objective, invisible. Jacobs, on the other hand, exposes that lie of neutrality as she challenges the legal fictions of black subjectivity created by the laws that Cobb itemizes.
The contradictions of slavery run deep and have a long history in this nation. While the pilgrims were stepping on Plymouth Rock to escape European oppression, European ships were bringing kidnaped Africans to the American continent.(25) While the founding fathers were writing about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," many of them also were fathering slaves. In the same breath as they spoke of equality and morality, nineteenth-century legal scholars and judges also would speak of African Americans as aliens and animals. Examining Jacobs's analysis, Cobb's rhetoric, and laws around slave subjectivity and sexuality helps expose the erasures and instabilities of such legal fictions that present themselves as fact. Such an exploration also reminds us to interrogate the seeming rationality and neutrality of modern legal discourse that also may obfuscate racism and sexism today.
1. See for example Braxton's article on Incidents as a redefinition of the slave narrative genre. Stepto takes male narrators and especially Douglass's 1845 book as his starting point in his influential study of African American narrative. Starling's pioneering work The S/ave Narrative asserts that it is Douglass's book that "stands for the entire genre" (xvii). Foster's groundbreaking study Witnessing Slavery by her own account "seriously slights slave women's narratives" (xxii), although Foster would later focus on Jacobs and other women writers in Written by Herself.
2. Some readings concentrate on one element at the cost of reducing the complexity of Jacobs's approach. In a book that centers on constructions of the body in feminist and abolitionist rhetorics, Sanchez-Eppler emphasizes Jacobs's focus on sexual experience, arguing that sexuality and childbirth "are" this slave narrative (84). While interesting and provocative, her reading also de-emphasizes other concerns in Jacobs's book.
3. The erasing of slave voices persists well into the twentieth century. A 1991 Congressional briefing paper defends two Harvard professors accused of offering an imbalanced presentation of slavery by asserting that slaves failed to leave behind their own records: Stephan Thernstrom and Bernard Bailyn "were accused of racial insensitivity for . . . reading from the diary of a southern plantation owner without giving equal time to the recollections of a slave (of which none exist)" (Hyde 6). The brief and unsupported parenthetical erases what Starling estimates to be over 6,000 extant slave narratives (337).
4. Harris cites Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Gayatri Spivak, and Abdul JanMohamed, who read texts against codes of power, and Mari Matsuda, Patricia Williams, and Derrick Bell, who juxtapose legal theoretical voices with marginalized voices (237).
5. One key example is California's Proposition 209, passed in 1996, which sought to dismantle civil rights policy throughout the state but ironically (and strategically) called itself "The California Civil Rights Initiative" and deployed the misleading language of evenhandedness, neutrality, and anti-discrimination.
6. Stowe was working on A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, a nonfiction response to critics of her novel who claimed that its events were fabricated. Jacobs asked that Stowe not use any of her story in the book, stating, "I wished it to be a history of my life entirely by itself which would do more good and it needed no romance" (235).
7. In addition to his own credentials, Cobb was well-connected in Georgia. His brother, Howell Cobb, served as governor, member of Congress, and cabinet member under President Buchanan. Cobb's father-in-law Joseph Lumpkin was a Georgia Supreme Court justice. Cobb served nearly a decade as the reporter for the Georgia high court and co-founded with Lumpkin the first law school in Athens, Georgia.
8. In addition to his treatise on slave law, Cobb published The Supreme Court Manual (1849), A Digest of the Statute Laws of the State of Georgia (1851), fifteen volumes of Georgia Supreme Court decisions, and, most importantly, The Code of the State of Georgia (1861).
9. Cobb was respected and mainstream. "We can honestly recommend Mr. Cobb's Treatise as an able, liberal, and intelligent exposition of the views now held by the leading statesmen and lawyers of the South," stated the Philadelphia-based American Law Register. The Register's Northern editor praised Cobb for his reliance on the law: "Many vexed questions are examined, but always in a temperate spirit, and with reference solely to legal principles and established precedents" (qtd. in McCash 173).
10. Lumpkin's judicial rhetoric reveals the blurred lines between legal and other discourses. In an 1853 ruling on the limited rights of freed African Americans, for example, he concluded that "the social and civil degradation, resulting from the taint of blood, adheres to the descendants of Ham in this country, like the poisoned tunic of Nessus; that nothing but an Act of the Assembly can purify, by the salt of its grace, the bitter fountain - the 'darkling sea'" (Bryan v. Walton 185). In the midst of legal precedents, he also invokes the biblical son of Noah and the mythological centaur Nessus (whose bloody tunic adhered to Hercules, setting his skin on fire and killing him) to demonstrate the ancientness and permanence of blackness (set in contrast to the purity of legislation).
11. State laws varied, but these basic restrictions on slave subjectivity and voice held true throughout the South.
12. In addition to petitioning Congress, Truth initiated three successful lawsuits. The first freed her son, who had been illegally sold into Southern slavery. For an analysis of legal questions in Delaney's story, see Barrett.
13. 1 Rev. VA Code 422, qtd. in Stroud 44. Stroud, in his 1856 legal work, acknowledges his antislavery position but distances himself from abolitionism. Stroud cites Cobb's 1851 Digest in his critique of Georgia law. Cobb cites Stroud to discredit him as an abolitionist instead of an objective legal scholar.
14. For a discussion of constructions of race and Enlightenment arguments about literacy and reason, see for example Gates. Douglass in his 1852 speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" cites anti-literacy laws as proof of the slave's humanity and manhood: "When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the fields, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave" (286).
15. Stepto and others cite as a prominent feature of the slave narratives the quest for literacy and power. Some critics have noted that female slave narrators sometimes see literacy as not only powerful but also potentially treacherous. Brent's owner tries to use her literacy against her, for example, forcing her to read sexually threatening notes. Sanchez-Eppler's analysis of what she terms "Jacobs's anxiety over literacy" here is useful, but it also downplays the narrator's active deployment of literacy (she writes manipulative letters from her place of confinement, for example) and Jacobs's power over language and awareness of the power of discourse.
16. Unless the accused rapist is black and the accuser is white. As with other areas of slave law, regulations of sexuality varied over time and from state to state. These characterizations give a general picture.
17. Such slippages persist in twentieth-century legislation, such as anti-miscegenation laws, which attempt to draw firm lines while also revealing anxiety about the ambiguity of these divisions. Virginia's 1924 Preservation of Racial Integrity Act banned interracial marriage and defined "white" as one with "no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian," while it permitted in the category white "one-sixteenth American Indian blood" to protect descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. There were multiple contradictions in the law, revealing that racial mixing did occur even as its effects were being denied: "The racial boundary was drawn differently for white/Indian and white/Negro mixtures, it changed over time for both, and all of the 'pure' racial categories defined by the law - white, Indian, and Negro - included in their definitions mixed-race individuals. Yet the myth of natural categories was maintained, with all the moral force that the idea of a 'natural order' could confer on such a categorization" (Higginbotham and Kopytoff 1982). The law remained in effect for forty-three years.
18. While the Mississippi defendant was discharged, Lumpkin's ruling resulted in the execution of Stephen: "He must be left to abide the penalty of that awful sentence, which adjudges him to be unworthy to have a place longer among the living." The law makes it clear that capital punishment applies in this case based on the race of both accused and accuser, for "rape, and an attempt to commit a rape, by a slave or free person of color, upon a free white female, are both capitally punished by the laws of this state" (241-42).
19. See Carby for a discussion of the implications of the ideology of true womanhood for women of color.
20. The paradox many slave narrators tried to demonstrate was that slavery hindered families, and families endured. Exact numbers of separations under slavery are impossible to ascertain, since slave families had no legal standing, and official records did not mark their existence directly. Slave narratives are rife with examples, such as Douglass's descriptions of separation from his mother. Gutman generates some numerical data: For example, records in Mississippi and Louisiana during and after the Civil War show that more than twenty percent of partners in slave marriages registered by the Army and Freedman's Bureau had previously been married elsewhere, in unions dissolved by slave sales or moving (126-30).
21. Cobb elsewhere uses the image of dancing slaves. Citing ancient Egyptian monuments to prove that slaves always have been black, he declares: "It is, moreover, well agreed from these monuments, that many of these domestic slaves were of pure negro blood" (xliv). His footnote explains: "That they were the same happy negroes of this day is proven by their being represented in a dance 1300 years before Christ." Dancing is a stereotype that proves both "negro" identity and happiness.
22. This rhetorical move recalls Fanny Fern's inclusion of her character's stock certificate in the closing pages of Ruth Hall (1855). While the context is very different, Fern also displaces marriage as the culmination of a woman's life. Economic freedom and professional success, along with motherhood apart from marriage, are the rewards at the end of this largely autobiographical novel.
23. State statutes varied, but by the nineteenth century it was a fairly uniform principle in U.S. slave law that the child's status was determined by the mother's. The rule derives from the ancient Roman principle: partus sequitur ventrem. In a rare translation, Cobb puts in his own words the ancient justification: "From principles of justice, the offspring, the increase of the womb, belongs to the master of the womb" (69).
24. The narrator often contrasts Flint's construction of criminality to a higher law. ". . . though you have been criminal towards me," Flint declares, "I feel for you, and I can pardon you if you obey my wishes. . . . If you deceive me, you shall feel the fires of hell" (58). Legal imagery often becomes Christian imagery, a link Jacobs refuses. Brent ignores the legal reference and rejects the Christian claim: "I have sinned against God and myself, . . . but not against you." She invokes a higher law, and she insists on her definition of that higher law.
25. A Dutch ship brought twenty kidnaped Africans to Jamestown in 1619, the same year the House of Burgesses met and a year before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. Notions of representative government and religious freedom in the "New World" emerge along with practices of human enslavement.
Barrett, Lindon. "Self-Knowledge, Law, and African American Autobiography: Lucy A. Delaney's 'From the Darkness Cometh the Light.'" The Culture of Autobiography: Constructions of Self Representation. Ed. Robert Folkenflik. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993. 104-24.
Braxton, Joanne. "Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: The Redefinition of the Slave Narrative Genre." Massachusetts Review 27 (1986): 379-87.
Bryan v. Walton. 14 Ga. 185. Ga. S. Ct. 1853.
Burnham, Margaret. "An Impossible Marriage: Slave Law and Family Law." Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice 5 (1987): 187-225.
Carby, Hazel. Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist. New York: Oxford UP, 1987.
Cobb, Thomas R. R. An Inquiry Into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America. 1858. New York: Negro UP, 1968.
Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race and Class. New York: Vintage, 1983.
Douglass, Frederick. "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" My Bondage and My Freedom. 1855. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1987. 284-88.
Foster, Frances Smith. Witnessing Slavery: The Development of Ante-bellum Slave Narratives. 1979. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1994.
-----. Written by Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "Writing 'Race' and the Difference it Makes." "Race," Writing and Difference. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. 1-20.
George (a Slave) v. State. 37 Miss. 316-320. Miss. S. Ct. 1859.
Gutman, Herbert. Slavery and the Numbers Game: A Critique of Time on the Cross. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1975.
Harris, Angela P. "Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory." Feminist Legal Theory: Readings in Law and Gender. Ed. Katharine Bartlett and Rosanne Kennedy. San Francisco: Westview, 1991. 235-62.
Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, The Colonial Period. New York: Oxford UP, 1978.
-----, and Barbara K. Kopytoff. "Racial Purity and Interfacial Sex in the Law of Colonial and Antebellum Virginia." Georgetown Law Journal 77 (1989): 1967-2029.
Hyde, Henry. The Collegiate Speech Protection Act Briefing Paper. Washington, 1991.
Jacobs, Harriet A. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself. 1861. Ed. Jean Fagan Yellin. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987.
McCash, William. Thomas R. R. Cobb: The Making of a Southern Nationalist. Macon: Mercer UP, 1983.
Sanchez-Eppler, Karen. Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.
Starling, Marion Wilson. The Slave Narrative: Its Place in American History. 1981. Washington: Howard UP, 1988.
Stephen (a Slave) v. State. 11 Ga. 225-242. Ga. S. Ct. 1852.
Stepto, Robert. From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1979.
Stroud, George M. A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery. 1856. New York: Negro UP, 1968.
Christina Accomando is an assistant professor at California State University, Humboldt, where she teaches multiethnic American literature. Currently she is completing a book entitled Representing Truth and Rewriting Womanhood: Constructions of Race and Gender in Discourses of Slavery and Resistance.
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|Title Annotation:||African American woman author and former slave|
|Publication:||African American Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1998|
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