Harriet Jacobs: A Champion of Freedom
On February 11, 1813, Harriet Jacobs, fugitive slave, writer and abolitionist, was born in Edenton. Harriet spent her childhood unaware of her station in life. But when her white mistress, Margaret Horniblow, died in 1825, Harriet and her brother John were willed to Horniblow’s three-year-old niece, Mary Norcom and thus, under the control of Mary Norcom’s father, Dr. James Norcom.
After suffering years of physical abuse and sexual harassment at the hands of Norcom, Jacobs fled in 1835 and went into hiding in the attic of her paternal grandmother, Molly Horniblow, a free black woman living in Edenton only a block away from Norcom. According to Jacobs memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861, Harriet lived in that restricted space for almost seven years until she managed to escape north via Edenton’s maritime Underground Railroad.
Jacobs gained her full and legal freedom ten years later. While living the life of a fugitive slave, Jacobs became an anti-slavery activist and an abolitionist author. By the time of the Civil War, as a free African- American woman, Jacobs served as a relief worker dedicated to assisting the newly freed people of her southern homeland.
Other related resources:
- An online resource on Harriet Jacobs from Historic Edenton
- Historic Edenton State Historic Site and events at Historic Edenton
- The Civil Rights Movement on NCpedia
- Celebrate Black History! from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources
- A Change is Gonna Come, an online exhibit from the N.C. Museum of History
- A History of African Americans in North Carolina from N.C. Historical Publications
- Images related to civil rights from the State Archives
- Resources related to black history from the State Library
For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.