Harriet Ann Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slavegirl (1861)
First Person Narratives of the American South collection
For seven years, Jacobs hid from her cruel master and mistress in a cramped attic until a chance to escape to the North presented itself. In the following passage, she describes her feelings upon learning that her freedom had been purchased by abolitionist benefactors in New York:
"My brain reeled as I read these lines. A gentleman near me said, "It’s true; I have seen the bill of sale." "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. It may hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in the United States. I well know the value of that bit of paper; but much as I love freedom, I do not like to look upon it. I am deeply grateful to the generous friend who procured it, but I despise the miscreant who demanded payment for what never rightfully belonged to him or his."
Pages 300-01, Incidents in the Life of a Slavegirl