The book "incidents in the life of a slave girl" was written by a former Harriet Jacobs using a pseudonym. She details the emotional and sexual abuse she underwent "as a female slave" in the region of Edenton, North Carolina and her escape from slavery. Through her account, she appeals to the reader by seemingly persuading the abolishing of slavery. It is a story of bravery and victory against all odds.
The writer, under the pseudonym of Linda Brent, was born a slave but was not aware of her state till the age of six. Her father was a "skillful carpenter" and could work as "head workman" after making arrangement with his mistress (Jacobs, p 5). Her childhood years are filled with memories of close family members including her maternal grand mother. After the death of her mother, she was cared for by the mother's mistress whom she loved and earnestly prayed for as she lay on her deathbed; knowing her demise would greatly affect her life (Jacobs, p 9). She was forced to work as other slaves after ownership was bequeathed to the five year old niece of her late mistress at the age of twelve years.
Together with William her younger brother, she was placed "in the flint house hold." At the hiring she sees the desperate slaves begging to be hired and the anguish of a mother whose children are taken to be sold (Jacobs, p 15). Benjamin, her uncle, escapes from slavery leaving her behind. The grandmother tries repeatedly to buy her freedom from the Flints but fails. The frustration and anger for Benjamin's escape is directed towards her by the master and mistress. This marks the beginning of her sexual harassment inflicted on her by Mr. Flint. She longed for a home of her own just like her grandmother, filled with love comfort and joy as she labored in the farm of Dr. Flint with other slaves.
Linda falls in love with a young free black man and they wish to marry (Jacobs, p 54). Her master refuses their wish to get married and without any hope, she convinces him to leave the area. With the continued sexual abuse, Linda decides to consent to a relationship with Mr. Sands, rather than to Dr. Flint. Her resulting pregnancy from the affair angers Dr. Flint and she is condemned by her grandmother, who she goes to stay with. She gives birth to a son, who she names Benny. She narrates the "Nat Turner's rebellion" and how it threw their town into a commotion. She notes the differing stand of the church on the whole issue of the rebellion, as their preacher instructs the slaves to remain obedient to their masters and mistresses. After staying with her grandmother, she again gives birth to a daughter and has both children baptized. Linda goes to work for Dr. Flint's son where she suffers and makes arrangements to escape.
With the help of her brother she escapes from the farm and a reward of three hundred dollars is offered for her capture. Fortunately a white neighbor accepts to hide her and this kind gesture move the grandmother to tears (Jacobs, p 150). The other family members are thrown to jail to compel them to reveal her whereabouts. She is later forced to hide in a swamp as the search for her builds up and suffers from illness and pest attacks as a result. The Children are sold to Mr. Sands, their paternal father, who later frees them after his election to "the U.S. House of Representatives".
Linda spends a time of seven years hiding in the tiny space and after a long tribulation escapes with the help of a friend. After bidding the family farewell, they escape en route to Philadelphia via the sea. She is finally free but lives as a fugitive. Abolitionists welcome their arrival and offer to assist her but she refuses their charity deciding to rely on what she had. Dr. Flint refuses to accept Linda's offer to buy her own freedom and she has to escape to Boston with her "free' daughter. Travelling with the daughter of her employee to England exposes her to a free environment without racial discrimination and prejudice. With her brother William, they attempt to establish "anti-slavery reading room in New York" after her return from Europe. The "fugitive slave law" causes tension in all the black runaway slaves, causing her escape to New England. Linda finally obtains freedom after Dr. Flint's death. With the help of Mrs. Bruce, her liberty is purchased from Dr. Flint's daughter for three hundred dollars, an amount equal to the reward money.