Blogs Gil Troy Is Harriet Jacobs The Black Anne Frank?Feb 13, 2018
Is Harriet Jacobs The Black Anne Frank?
tags: slavery,civil rights,Civil War,abolitionism,Harriet Jacobs
Is calling Harriet Ann Jacobs, a teenage runaway slave who hid in a crawl space for nearly seven years, a black “Anne Frank,” helpful or disrespectful?
The answer is “yes, both.” Analogies are like medicines—most have side effects. Historians like using the familiar to access the unfamiliar, yet dislike reducing complex events to one dimension that resonates—and risks implying that fame always predominates.
Anne Frank died seven months after the Nazis raided the “Secret Annex” where she hid for two years. She was fifteen. Harriet Jacobs escaped her oppressors and lived until 84. She became, er, a black Harriet Beecher Stowe, and a female Frederick Douglass. Her searing memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl defied America’s proprieties to expose what happened when men treated women as property...
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