This essay examines previously unexplored divisions within the antislavery movement’s published responses to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Revisiting Jacobs’s conflict with her editor, Lydia Maria Child, over the suppressed chapter about John Brown, Smith emphasizes reception rather than authorial intention to show how the militant abolitionist James Redpath and his journal, the Anglo-African, aligned Jacobs’s book with the legacy of Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. While Garrisonian pacifists like Child emphasized the moral influence of Jacobs’s testimony, Redpath saw it as a contribution to a circum-Atlantic project of black resistance, liberation, and uplift that crossed lines of race and gender.
Caleb Smith; Harriet Jacobs among the Militants: Transformations in Abolition’s Public Sphere, 1859–61. American Literature 1 December 2012; 84 (4): 743–768. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1901427
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