Black History Month: 7 notable African American political activists who predate MLK Jr.

Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)
Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) | Public Domain

Harriet A. Jacobs was born into slavery in North Carolina in 1813 and was reportedly the first woman to author a published fugitive slave account titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, originally released in 1860.

According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill project Documenting the American South, Jacobs' account was "an unprecedented mixture of confession, self-justification, and societal expose."

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"White abolitionist propaganda in the antebellum era only rarely discussed how slave women resisted sexual exploitation," noted the UNC project.

"Jacobs, however, was determined to portray herself as an agent rather than a victim, a woman motivated by a desire for freedom much stronger than a fear of sexual retribution."

During and after the Civil War, Jacobs made efforts to assist former slaves and refugees, which included opening schools in Virginia and Massachusetts.

Jacobs died in Washington, D.C., in 1897.

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