Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet A. Jacobs Summary and Analysis Chapter 35

Summary

Linda, as Mary's nurse, goes to Albany with Mr. and Mrs. Bruce aboard a steamboat. While on board, she is insulted by a black waiter who refuses to serve her. Upon returning to New York, Linda goes to Brooklyn to visit Ellen, whom she meets on her way to the grocery store. Ellen warns her not to go to Mrs. Hobbs' house, because Mrs. Hobbs' brother, Mr. Thorpe, is visiting from the South. Linda heeds her warning and tells Ellen that she will see her when she returns from her impending trip to Rockaway with the Bruce family.

Linda then recounts her experiences in a hotel in Rockaway, where she is refused the right to sit at the dining table with other, lighter-skinned black nurses, who shun her. At first, she relents and takes her meals in her room, but later, she refuses to accept their behavior and gradually wins their grudging respect.

Analysis

One of Linda's most painful realizations is that even though she now lives in a Free State, she is still subject to Jim Crow laws.

"Jim Crow" was a character introduced in 1832 by a song written and sung by "Daddy" Dan Rice in his minstrel act. Minstrel shows generally consisted of song-and-dance numbers by white performers in blackface makeup who portrayed blacks as clowns and buffoons. To racist whites, these caricatures of blacks reinforced their belief that blacks are innately inferior and, therefore, suited for the role of slave and servant. The term "Jim Crow" eventually became synonymous with "Negro," often spelled with a lowercase "n" to further emphasize the perceived inferiority of blacks.

In essence, Jim Crow laws aimed at keeping blacks "in their place" by legalizing discrimination. Numerous Jim Crow laws were in effect throughout the United States. These laws varied regionally, but they all enforced segregation (they kept the races separate). Jim Crow laws ensured that blacks and whites attended separate schools; traveled in separate railroad cars, streetcars, and taxicabs; used separate facilities such as parks, restrooms, and waiting rooms; and entered factories and other buildings through separate entrances. Spending for education was vastly unequal in favor of white children. And transportation, facilities, and other necessities designated for blacks were inferior compared to whites'.

This chapter makes clear, however, that Linda maintains her self-respect and will not respect the authority of discriminatory laws and customs. She successfully stands up for her rights, saying "Let every colored man and woman do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled under foot of our oppressors."

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After Linda escapes from Mr. Flint's plantation, her relatives advise her to do what?




Quiz